Taste The Atlantic Ocean in This West Cork Tipple – Beara Gin Producer Spotlight
A few years back we saw a gin revival of sorts, with all manner of flavours and colours hitting our shelves. This month we sat down with John Power, the founder of Beara Ocean Gin to find out about Ireland’s newest artisan gin.
So how did the story of Beara Gin begin? John says growing up on the Beara Peninsula in West Cork greatly influenced him, “the sea has always been a massive part of my life. I’ve always loved fishing and being on boats, that lead to me working in the fisheries. I got involved in salmon farming, which I’m still involved with today.”
“West Cork is a great hub for artisan food producers so there’s always been a focus on quality local food. We saw the rise in popularity of gin and knowing how many people visit the Beara Peninsula every year, we saw an opportunity to create a real gin of provenance from the peninsula.” John and his sister Eileen spent 18 months travelling around the world, meeting like-minded distillers and those in the gin trade, soaking up as much knowledge as possible.
Beara Distillery produces two types of gin, Beara Ocean Gin and Beara Pink Ocean Gin. Each gin is infused with Atlantic salt water, hand picked Beara Peninsula fuchsia and Ventry Harbour sugar kelp. John says they strive “to capture the essence of the Beara Peninsula in our spirits and I think we’ve done it.” Each bottle of Beara gin contains a little piece of West Cork in every drop. “Castletownbere is the largest white fish port in Ireland, so we wanted to incorporate that into the products hence the Atlantic salt water and seaweed.
Paying homage to West Cork was important in the creation of Beara. He tells me they wanted to create something that “truly reflected the area and that’s how we came up with the local botanicals of sugar kelp, fuchsia and the Atlantic saltwater infusion.” They source the sugar kelp from Ventry harbour and the hand-picked fuchsia found in Beara Gin is a well-known sight in West Cork. The bright pink and purple flowers are scattered all across the landscape. “We hand pick these in the warmer months of the year and create a distillate to use in the gin over the rest of the year. The fuchsia doesn’t impart much in terms of flavour but its aroma is incredible.”
Our gins are very much products of provenance”
“We only use fresh citrus peel in our gins, most distilleries would use dried. We hand peel grapefruit, lemons and limes, pop the peel in a muslin bag and into the still. Fresh peel makes all the difference. It gives a much fresher, more aromatic citrus flavour to the gin. The sugar kelp seaweed really adds the aroma of the sea to the gin. Lots of people smell it and remark ‘smells like the sea.’ Our Pink Gin has the addition of cranberry and rosewater, giving it a soft fruity touch and enticing pink hue.” The pretty pink hue of Beara’s Pink Gin John remarks is “one for Valentine’s!”
Officially Beara Gin has been in business since September 2017. However, they began researching two years beforehand. “We started off with research, contacting Bord Bia and our Local Enterprise Board. Both were absolutely fantastic. We learned all that we could about gin, visiting distilleries, attending tradeshows and attending gin school. We eventually met International Spirits Expert Julia Nourney, at a trade show in London. Once our stills were installed and the distillery was set up, Julia came to Castletownbere for a number of weeks to work on our gin.”
It was trial and error as the team got experimental with ingredients “we created all sorts of distillates using local and imported botanicals, different seaweeds, local flowers and herbs. It was a lot of fun experimenting with the different flavours and seeing how they interact with each other in the liquid. It’s a complicated matter but Julia is a pro!” They eventually settled on the final recipe and John says it “produces a beautiful gin and really represents the Beara Peninsula.”
It’s a tight-knit group at Beara HQ, but the small team has already achieved big things. “It’s a family business and everyone helps out. It’s something I hope to pass down through the family in years to come. We also employ two people outside the family, Aaron and Peter who have both really brought a lot to the team.”
In the early days, they started out supplying the Irish market and then Germany. The business is growing fast, and you can now you can pick up a bottle of this West Cork creation in the UK, France, Italy, Norway, Denmark, Poland, the Jersey Island’s, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. John admits “it’s a very exciting time in the business. There’s lots of competition in gin at the moment but there are also great opportunities. One thing that will always stand out is quality and we are confident that we are producing gins of incredible quality for the world market.”
After all the hard work, the team are surely on the lookout for their products across Ireland, hoping to see them in their local bars and restaurants. “We are lucky to have very good distribution in Ireland and the bars are really great for supporting local. Some of our best promoters are the local bars and hotels. The hotels, restaurants and bars in Ireland really support local premium products. We love walking into a bar that we haven’t been to before and seeing our bottles up on the back bar. I always think that we must be doing something right because the bottles always look half empty!”
I ask John has there been a highlight that sticks out in his memory? “There are lots of little ones and big ones, as any business owner will tell you. It really is your baby. I suppose one recent ones would be we were named No.1 Irish Gin by Lovin Dublin, that was nice considering there are so many fantastic Irish gins on the market these days.”
Over the course of Beara’s short life, the team have already had some memorable experiences. John tells me, “we were recently in a meeting with an importer in Italy talking about the gins and the potential to work together, and the MD of the importer said “you have the quality for sure, it’s excellent and the packaging is great. You’ve got both those things so right which is key.” I was over the moon with that, for someone with so much experience in the drinks business to have such confidence in our gins was really a proud moment.”
In between the hard work John says he “loves meeting people at consumer events like Bloom or Gin Experience Dublin, getting their feedback on the gins – when it’s good feedback”, he jokes. “Hearing that they had it somewhere before or were recommended it by a friend or bar and that they enjoyed it.”
Looking to the future John says they have big plans on the horizon, “we hope to expand in every way; expand production, expand the team, expand into more markets and our premises.” They also have plans to launch a vodka, which will be an exciting addition to the world of spirits. “We are looking into doing a visitor experience at the distillery, so people can really interact with the product, learn about how it’s made and how it’s different to other gins on the market.”
Continuing on John says, “It’s a very exciting time in the business, things are moving very fast. We’re really only 17 months in operation and so much has already happened.” What does the future hold for Beara Gin? John is optimistic and passionately says “the plan is to drive on! Watch this space!”