WHILE the old Snia / Saehan factory at Hazelwood remains closed over winter, its owners are busy preparing to build a whiskey distillery there that will put Sligo on the international drinks map.Dave Raethorne of Hazelwood Demesne Ltd this week gave Progressive Sligo an update on plans to produce a premium brand whiskey with world-wide appeal at the former factory.While they are working with Sligo County Council to get planning permission, they are also pushing ahead with preparations for making a top range unique whiskey.Dave said: “Our product will be something that Sligo can be proud of. The whiskey will be at the upper premium end of the market, above anything that is available in Ireland at the moment”.He said that most of their work at the moment relates to creating the whiskey brand. “To that end we are working with a prestigious UK branding agency called JKR, who have helped brands such as Budweiser, Courvoisier, Jura and Molton Brown”.In terms of work done so far at the site, they have re-roofed the west wing of Hazelwood House and have made the entire structure watertight.“Basically, not a lot physically has happened there yet because we are waiting on planning permission.“We currently have four local people employed on site full time, including a landscape gardener and we are working primarily on the site rather than the buildings”.The site now has 24-hour security and a network of CCTV cameras to keep it secure.
(below) An artist's impression of what the large new elegant stills at the front of the building will look like.
Hazelwood Demesne Ltd submitted an elaborate planning application on September 2 last for a facility with several attractions The planners requested further information from the company on October 22.Dave said they have now compiled the information requested. “The council came back seeking additional information and seeking clarification in a number of areas. “We are in the process of putting together that for them at the moment. That should be completed within days now. Hopefully we will have planning permission within the next month or two”. The planning application is for alterations and change of use of the former 20,170 sqm large factory to a whiskey distillery including ancillary bonded warehouse storage, distillation plant areas and offices. A cafe / restaurant/retail area occupying 1,740 sqm is also planned along with visitor tour and staff facilities and associated services occupying 18,430 sqm.The project includes external and internal refurbishment of Hazelwood House (2,277 sqm) to provide a visitor centre.The works will also involve the removal of the external stair to the east of the house, the creation of a new glazed entrance in the adjacent east courtyard, together with a new glazed external passenger lift installation to the west elevation and external ground works. A terraced / deck area to the rear of the house and a water feature/pond over existing parking area between the formal garden of the house and factory/new distillery is planned.The basement, portions of the ground, first and second floors will serve tours of the house and as ancillary museum / exhibition areas together with whiskey historical information and tasting areas integrated in a distillery tour. It is proposed to use portions of the ground floor and western out building as a restaurant / tea rooms and to use portions of the second floor as an executive office and boardroom together with two executive residential suites.Craft workshops / trade displays are planned at existing 567 sqm stables to the east of the site. An existing surface car park will be reconfigured to provide 237 car parking and 5 coach parking spaces.
WHAT’S PLANNED AT HAZELWOOD
The now disused factory was opened by Italian company Snia in 1971
EMPHASIS ON PREMIUM QUALITY RATHER THAN DEADLINES
The company intend to set the ball rolling on building the distillery as soon as they get the planning go-ahead. But Dave said they are more concerned about taking the time required to ensure a premium product than delivering it quickly. “I’m aware there are quite a few other distilleries setting up and their goal would be to start quickly and produce product as early as possible.“That is not what we are about. We are working to create a long-term sustainable project.” He said that as soon as they get the planning go-ahead they will start ordering in the equipment needed. At the same time they will start building works. “But the time scale may depend on where we decide to buy equipment from. We have not yet fully decided on where we will go for the large copper stills”. The stills are made by hand. Some of the top firms supplying them could take 18 months to deliver because of the time required to build them and the backlog of work they have on hand. “Some firms can do them quicker but they are not available anywhere off the shelf. Wherever we decide to buy from will have a big impact on the length of the project until we produce our first batch of whiskey. “We are more concerned about getting top quality than getting it done quickly. This distillery is going to around for a long time so it’s not something we are going to rush so as to gain a month or two”. Dave said that they are aiming at creating a world-class brand whiskey and making Hazelwood a world-class destination. “We are very excited about it and we are confident we are going to come up with something special”.
Dave Raethorne of Hazelwood Demesne
IN THE MEANTIME . . . Last year the company opened the old factory for a large exhibition called Magnetism? But the owners are not in a position to decide if it that will happen this year. Dave said: “We cannot say yet if the premises will be open to the public again this year.“That will depend on the timing and scale of the building work going on. If there is a lot of construction this year, the site could be dangerous for public access”. “In an ideal world we would like to open again but at this stage I cannot say. The aim is to open it to the public as soon as possible.“One option might be to let people come on site to see the building work in progress if it would be confined to just one area of the large plant, but the focus will be on safety”, Dave concluded.(left ) Part of last year’s Magnetism exhibition
Hazelwood House Gets Distillery Green LightFrom the Sligo Champion By Sorcha Crowley OWNERS of Hazelwood House, David and Sue Raethorne have spoken of their delight at finally being granted permission to transform the former Saehan Media factory into a major tourist attraction for the North West.Speaking exclusively to The Sligo Champion, David said "We're delighted. The planning conditions were all to be expected. We're very happy with it" "Sligo County Council has been fantastic to work with in terms of the process of planning. In fairness, they had to ask for a lot of information but they did make the process as easy as they could for us' he said.The planning permission includes the restoration of Hazelwood House to its former l8th century glory and conversion of the old factory to an exclusive whiskey distillery.It was the first Palladian building designed in Ireland by Leinster House architect Richard Cassels in 1730. Over the centuries it's been an aristocratic home for the landed gentry, occupied by an army squadron and used as a psychiatric hospital.Now a new chapter is beginning with plans for a visitor centre, museum/exhibition areas, whiskey historical exhibition and "tasting area along with a restaurant and tea-rooms.The former videotape factory will be turned into a modern whiskey distillery warehouse, visitor tour and staff facilities and another cafe/restaurant and retail centre. The nearby stables will also be restored and opened as craft workshops and trade display areas. The site has under 24-hour security as ground preparation work is underway. The first sod is not expected to be turned until 2018 under the owners ten year phased plan, with the installation of the distillery plant scheduled for 2019 and completion of phase 1 in the factory due in 2020."From our perspective a lot depends on funding and how the distillery goes," David told this newspaper "That plan is the worst case scenario - if we can do things quicker we will move quicker than that’ he said.The Dublin entrepreneur would like to host similar art events on the estate to the Magnetism exhibition staged in the factory last year. ‘If there's a lot of construction work going on it's not possible but we still have options around the site. We’re thinking of something sculptural perhaps but it could be 2017 before that happens," he said.‘We need to gather our thoughts, sit down and plan now. There will be a whole series of announcements made then over the summer' said. David.Sligo planners attached 28 conditions to the permission. The owners must submit a report annually providing details of the work done the previous year. The proposed conservation works to Hazelwood House shall be carried out under the supervision of a conservation architect. Under "no circumstances’ shall any water be extracted from the Garavogue River or Lough Gill for uses associated with the distillery.From the Irish Times
Dave Raethorne Hazelwood Owner
Permission granted for distillery at Sligo’s Hazelwood House Production of single malt whiskey to start in the Lough Gill distillery within 12-18 months Hazelwood House in Co Sligo, which was considered one of Ireland’s most at-risk Palladian mansions just two years ago, is set to be restored. Sligo County Council has granted planning permission for the restoration of the historic house which was constructed for the Wynne family on the shores of Lough Gill in the early 1700s.The owners have also been granted permission to transform a former factory in the grounds of the historic estate into a whiskey distillery and visitors’ centre, incorporating a cafe/restaurant and retail centre.Hazelwood House was designed by architect Richard Cassels, who also designed Leinster House, Powerscourt House and Russborough House.Software developer David Raethorne, whose company Hazelwood Demesne Limited bought the estate in December 2014, said production of single malt whiskey would begin in the Lough Gill distillery on the estate within 12-18 months. “In the meantime whiskey will be distilled to our specifications at The Shed distillery in Drumshanbo, ” he said. Tourist attractionThe businessman hopes to convert the property into a flagship tourist attraction. He said a lot of work had already been done making the house safe, especially in the west wing. Under the 10-year planning permission, the former factory, built in the 1960s, will be adapted as a 1,700sq m distillery and visitors’ centre. Mr Raethorne said this would be phase one of the project but he was unclear what the timeline would be for the restoration of the house. “It has been there for 300 years so whether it takes three years or five years, the important thing for us is to get it right,” he said