Posted on Monday 6 January 2020 by Ulster Business

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Derek Hardy is the man tasked with bringing serial businessman Terry Cross’s distillery dreams to life, setting up Hinch beside his own home. John Mulgrew met him at Terry’s Killaney Estate to discuss the grand whiskey and gin producing plans

There’s nothing about Terry Cross and Derek Hardy’s plans for the Hinch Distillery and visitor centre in Co Down that feels like any corners are being cut.

Former Delta Print and Packaging boss Terry has turned his attention to whiskey and gin with his new venture – a £15m development based literally beside his grand home, outside Carryduff.

Looking at a host of detailed artist’s impressions – on show inside Terry’s home – it’s clear there’s both significant time and money being put in to the venture. It will end up as a 30,000 sq ft facility and visitor experience with a bar, restaurant and function spaces.

Derek is the man who will run the business. He’s been involved in the drinks trade for years, turning his hand to a range of roles, from wine to fizzy water.

“It’s a single malt distillery, and the other important part of it is the visitor centre. It’s really our brand home,” Derek told Ulster Business.

“It’s about showing off Hinch and showing off Co Down. It allows us to hold events. There is a 10,000 sq ft internal courtyard, so we would be able to host 600-700 people for an event… our imagination is boundless.

“In terms of test distilling, we will start our test around February/March and be in production by April or May.”

The current Hinch whiskey on the market is coming from a range of sources – already aged. The grain element in the whiskey coming from Great Northern Distillery.

“We have tried to look for our niche. In our Time collection, it’s about aged blends. We have our three, five and 10-year-old sherry finish, a 12-year-old Amarone which is in the cask already, then finishing up with a 15-year-old in that range.

“Because of the close relationships with the distilleries which have sourced this from, with the grain element we will continue to buy the same grain that was used in those whiskies. We reckon we can pretty much duplicate what we currently have, in the future.

“We also have ambitions to launch our signature, single malt range, coming out of the distillery.”

As far as output goes, it should be able to produce 500,000 litres of pure alcohol, single malt, but that number could soar to two million with extra mash tuns.

Derek’s own career has taken him to global food giants such as Unilever, working specifically for Batchelors foods, before moving to the then SmithKline Beecham as an account manager.

His first move into the alcohol and beverage sector was with wine company Ernest and Julio Gallo where he spent four years. A stint at Ballygowan spring water followed.

It’s also due to launch the first of its ‘craft beer’ range. That will see it ageing whiskey in barrels from Irish breweries including Heaney, Kinnegar and Whitewater.

And as whiskey takes at least three years to develop, Hinch is also producing a gin – Ninth Wave. According to Derek, they spent around four or five months developing a series of recipes, before deciding on what will now be their own premium gin.

It’s also Derek’s penchant for ancient history, dating back to Celtic times, that inspired the gin’s name. It comes from the Celtic form of heaven, ‘the other world’.

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