On a crisp Autumn morning myself and a colleague of mine from work headed through the fog over to Slane in Co Meath. Just before you come into the village on the N51 you come upon Slane Castle Demesne. For any of you who attended any of the concerts over the last 30 years this road in will be very familiar- if not a bit quieter. There is still a lot of construction going on around the drive in. When its finished though the owners expect this to be the leading distillery and visitor center in the country.
In 2015 Brown-Forman (an American spirits and wine company) along with the Conyngham family of Slane Castle began a partnership to produce Slane’s own whiskey. This will be no ordinary whiskey. From grain to glass the aim of the new distillery will be to source all raw materials for this whiskey on their doorstep and to also distill and mature the whiskey on site. On arrival we made our way into an impressive courtyard and to the right to reception. This is literally a stones throw from Slane Castle itself. Here we met Paul Ryan, the VIP events manager for Slane Distillery and he very kindly showed us around the magnificent new center.
We started in the courtyard of what used to be the stables here in the estate. The stables are actually older than Slane Castle. As much of the original stone work and beams have been preserved here. Through the main reception there is a small garden in front of a small two bedroom cottage. This is Edies cottage. A beautiful sculpture of a horse by Lynn Kirkham is on show here, made out of barrel staves and hoops. From here we made our way towards the stalls bar but not before calling into the tack room. This cosy little room contains some of the original saddles used by the Conyngham family many years ago. Beautiful pieces of furniture made by a local craftsman makes this room perfect to sit by the fire with a glass of whiskey in hand.
The stalls bar is nothing if not an amazing nod to the old stables. The original stalls have been restored into beautiful snugs where you can sit and taste the beautiful whiskey on offer. On that particular morning there was a coffee morning being held here in aid of cancer care research. The distillery is already being used for the good of the local community. We left here and made our way to where the tour would usually start (we just couldn’t wait to see everything on the ground floor). Gary brought us up to the Heritage room where there are various audio visual points explaining the history of the estate, the role of Slane Distillery and Slane castle estate in the Boyne Valley and of course the history of the stables and Brown- Forman.
You make your way into another room (the doors here are the original ones) which houses the barley lab. Here you can see how the process of how the barley changes to eventually become Whiskey. Further along the tour will take you through the actual distillery and production area. At the moment it is still under construction but we were afforded a peak through the big glass windows to where the epic three copper pot stils are held. There is so much going on here, its already so interesting and its not even finished yet!
We took a walk outside at this stage so Gary could show us where the six column stills were housed as well as the the plans for the walled garden beside the distillery and a host of other buildings that are involved in this exciting new venture. Back down in another courtyard we made our way into the Cooperage to learn about the maturation process in three different barrels. First the whiskey is placed in a virgin cask- in other words, one that has never been used before. It is then transferred to a seasoned cask and then finally a sherry cask. This is how this whiskey gets it’s unique beautiful flavour.
After the cooperage we made our way into a series of beautiful tasting rooms. This is where the magic happens after your tour. You get to taste the whiskey itself! On the other side of these two tasting rooms is the whiskey lounge. Here you will find lots of memorabilia on all the concerts that have been held in Slane. This made me feel so old!! An absolutely beautiful room though and the perfect spot to have any drink- even if you don’t drink whiskey. The last part of the tour is the gift shop and oh my god I would have had a field day in here if I was let. They even have a machine where you can bottle your own whiskey and put your own personalised label on it.
This new distillery and visitor centre is going to be absolutely huge when its finished. It will, I have no doubt, become one of the biggest visitor attractions in the Boyne Valley and Ireland in no time at all. Slane Distillery are at the moment giving preview tours in advance of the distillery becoming fully functioning. Tickets are only €9 for an hour tour. While we were there we said it would be rude not to pay a visit to Slane Castle. We took the short walk across the car park to check out the home of the Conyngham family. You can take guided tours here for €12 to learn all about the history of the castle and the family. We took a sneak peak into the beautiful new Gandon room restaurant- one to definitely visit. We settled ourselves in the beautiful snug in Brownes Bar and had tea and a scone looking over the outside Terrace and the river Boyne.
I am so excited to tell as many people as possible about this amazing new attraction in the Boyne Valley. Some where you can go rain, hail or shine and appreciate the history of this magnificent estate. I wish all involved in this new venture all the best of luck and I will most definitely be back! (Hopefully not so early in the morning so I can enjoy a tipple- or two!) I have attached all the links below to help you on your trip to Slane Distillery- as always- Happy Galavanting! xxx