In advance of our upcoming fundraise for Powerscourt Distillery, Conor McKeon, Head of Corporate Finance, recently chatted with Roger Duggan of Powerscourt to discuss the background of the distillery, its association with Powerscourt Estate, the milestone achievements to-date and the business outlook as it embarks on further exciting plans to expand the sale of its premium Irish whiskey brand “Fercullen” on the international market. Roger is responsible for all fundraising activities for Powerscourt Distillery and is Company Secretary.
Can you explain the relationship of the distillery to Powerscourt Estate?
The distillery is located on the renowned Powerscourt Estate, close to the main house and within sight of the main car park in Enniskerry, Co Wicklow. Its location in one of Ireland’s best loved, most frequently visited and picturesque tourist attractions with in excess of 500,000 visitors per year. While these numbers refer back to 2019, prior to the pandemic, post Covid we do expect visitor numbers to return to this level. The normalised visitor levels ensure a steady flow of foot traffic into the carefully appointed distillery visitor centre, gift shop, tasting rooms, on-site production, training, entertainment & maturation facilities.
What are the key milestones achieved by Powerscourt Distillery to date?
The company was formed in August 2016 by way of a re-engineered business plan with a view to establishing a distillery project on the estate. A revised funding requirement of over €20m was identified together with a new approach to plant, product, key personnel and advisors. The new distilling equipment was ordered from Forsyths in Scotland in September 2016. The first few rounds of funding took place and master distiller Noel Sweeney was appointed. Aged stocks of whiskey he had formerly distilled were also acquired (to release as part of early phase distillery development) and construction commenced the following August. Sustainability was a major guiding factor in the design and construction of the distillery and visitor centre. This entailed a complete restoration of the estate’s original mill house which houses the visitor centre and the construction of a new state of the art distillery, where heating and energy costs are kept to a minimum through the redistribution of waste heat water used in the distillation process.
The first new make spirit was filled into casks by August 2018 and the “Fercullen” Irish whiskey was launched in November 2019. So we have come on a considerable journey in a relatively short space of time.
What are the main challenges facing the drinks industry, and how is Powerscourt Distillery best placed to succeed in a sector dominated by multinational players?
There are many. Exporting always brings its fair share of challenge and macro-economic issues such as Brexit, the implantation of various geographic-specific importation tariffs and logistics inertia are never off the list of considerations!
For Irish whiskey, the ongoing global appeal is of course matched by an associated thirst and need for education on a number of levels including both cultural and historic as well as at category and product levels. This is an industry that naturally favours the larger players, but as with many others, there is always plenty of space and scope for entities such as Powerscourt Distillery too. For our part, we are concentrating on provenance and quality. We have invested in the best available distilling equipment, we have the best, most experienced hands to run that equipment to produce our whiskey and we are marrying experience with innovation to build new and engaged audiences worldwide. We are fortunate in that we have a platform that can produce up to about 3 million bottles of the highest quality Irish whiskey per year. This allows us to attract and develop international partnerships of scale that can help us to leverage our investment to date over the many years ahead.
What markets represent the biggest opportunities for Powerscourt Distillery?
Irish whiskey continues to enjoy phenomenal growth in markets throughout the world and in concert with others in this sector, we face many new and exciting opportunities across the globe. We are currently exporting to markets in Asia, North America and across Europe. We see huge opportunity in Asia, although as always, new markets will tend to develop only on the back of significant and sustained education pushes. This represents both a challenge and an opportunity for Irish whiskey in general. Eastern Europe holds promise, as indeed does there remain plenty of additional headroom in the US and amongst emerging markets in Africa.
What is key for Powerscourt Distillery over the next 3 years?
At this time we are addressing three critical responsibilities. Laying down stock to support future product releases, developing our international distribution channels for existing and new releases of Fercullen Irish Whiskey and refinancing part of our capital structure in line with capital & funding planning. Delivering on each of these responsibilities is a key requirement over the next three years and we have well-developed plans in order to ensure each is met, in full.
Conor McKeon is the head of Corporate Finance at Cantor Fitzgerald Ireland.
Cantor Fitzgerald Corporate Finance Limited is not regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland. Any Investment opportunities originating from Cantor Fitzgerald Corporate Finance are not regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland and therefore do not benefit from any client investor compensation scheme or the Central Bank of Irelands Client Asset Regulations. A complaint may be referred to the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman (FSPO) however, as these investments are unregulated, there is no guarantee the FSPO will accept it.
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