In James and Moira Doherty, two Scatterlings have returned to Sliabh Liag with their Meitheal (work-gang or team) to create a legacy that the whole community can be proud of. Located on the Sliabh Liag peninsula, the two distilleries are surrounded by one of the world’s most striking landscapes populated by resilient people, steeped in folklore and with a legendary distilling heritage.
Driven by a passion for authenticity, the calling is to recreate the rich liquids and challenging smoky Irish whiskies from before the industrial revolution, harnessing the knowledge and legends of the west coast of Ireland to bring a modern, confident Donegal Gaeltacht to the world through super-premium spirits brands.
Donegal is steeped in a history of legal and illicit distillation, and the Sliabh Liag peninsula and the parish of Glencolmcille were among the most prolific poitín producing areas in the County. Aeneas Coffey referred to distilling in the mountainous parts of Donegal as being where illicit distillation “has been carried on from time immemorial and been the principal occupation of almost the whole population”.
Images © Sliabh Liag Distillers
On the Sliabh Liag peninsula, surrounded by blue-green seas and punctuated by ancient imposing mountains, fairy glens and beaches of silver sand, the stunning landscape is home to vast expanses of heather and peat bogs, formed by abundant rainfall over thousands of years.
Mixed with the fragrant sea spray from the wild Atlantic, the air is strikingly fresh, bracing and leaves a slight salty tang of the sea on the tip of your tongue.
Towering over this beautiful and rugged landscape is the mountain of Sliabh Liag. The words of the poet Séamas ÓDoraidheáin of Cill Charthaigh on Sliabh Liag could as easily be describing a great whiskey: “Great beautiful Sliabh Liag on which grows long grass / With yellow honey flowing like dew on the slopes of its passes”.
If terroir does have a bearing on spirits, then the Sliabh Liag peninsula is ideally suited to creating wonderful liquids.
With An Dulaman Gin in a temporary home in Kilcar and The Silkie Irish Whiskey and An Dúlamán Gin launched, a new whiskey and distillery is under construction in the historic and beautiful village of Ardara on Donegal’s Wild Atlantic Way.
The whiskey distillery will produce solely peated whiskeys in a modern take of the ulster style – triple distilled heavily peated in unique stills inspired by Macallan and manufactured by the renowned Forsyth’s in Scotland The brewing process on the grain will be unique in Ireland and a respectful nod to the illicit distillers of the past.