Legends of the Irish whiskey industry recognised at Chairman’s Awards ceremony

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Six individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the Irish whiskey industry will be recognised by Drinks Ireland|Irish Whiskey at their Chairman’s Awards which take place virtually this evening (26.11.20) at 6pm.

Drinks Ireland|Irish Whiskey is the representative association for the Irish whiskey industry. The Association’s Chairman’s Awards take place biennially and will be awarded this year by outgoing Chairman David Stapleton, founder of The Connacht Whiskey Company. The awards recognise the people, distilleries and industry partners that have made an outstanding contribution to the development of the Irish whiskey industry and category.

Commenting today, David Stapleton, Chairman of Drinks Ireland|Irish Whiskey, said: “I am honoured to present the Chairman’s Awards to such a talented and tenacious group of people who have contributed significantly to the revival of the Irish whiskey industry. The awardees represent the dynamism and ingenuity which is central to our industry.

“It is fitting that we will present posthumous awards to two people of tremendous quality who have left a remarkable legacy on the Irish whiskey industry. I am also delighted that this year marks the first time a woman will receive a Chairman’s Award, which is reflective of the growing number of women working in the industry. 

The Chairman’s Awards 2020 awardees are:

  • Billy Leighton, Master Blender, Irish Distillers: As Chief Blender to the largest producer of Irish whiskey, Billy has been at the very heart of the Irish whiskey revival and renaissance. Billy has played a pivotal role in delivering great and complex Irish whiskeys, including one he is most synonymous with: Redbreast.
  • Helen Mulholland, Master Blender, Old Bushmills Distillery: Helen began her journey to the role of Master Blender, crafting the Bushmills blends and the renowned 10, 16 and 21-year-old triple-distilled single malts. Helen has blazed a trail for women in the industry. She is the first woman to receive a Chairman’s Award and has inspired many women in the industry in distilling, scientific and technical roles.
  • Noel Sweeney, Master Distiller, Powerscourt Distillery: Noel started his career as quality control manager at Cooley Distillery in 1989. He rose through the ranks to become master distiller and blender of both Cooley and Kilbeggan Distilleries. He played a leading role in the establishment of Drinks Ireland|Irish Whiskey. In 2017 Noel was inducted to the World Whiskey Hall of Fame, and in the same year he joined Powerscourt Distillery leading the development of what has become one of the most impressive new distilling operations in the industry.
  • David Hynes, Director, Great Northern Distillery: David who is a co-founder of the Cooley Distillery, went on to co-found the Great Northern Distillery at the old Harp Brewery in Dundalk. It has grown to become a major player in Irish whiskey supplying great Irish whiskey to brand, bonders and bottlers across the industry. David has also lent his technical expertise to support the design, development and commissioning of a whole range of new Irish whiskey distilleries.

In addition, two posthumous awards will be awarded to:

  • Dr Pearse Lyons, Founder of Pearse Lyons Distillery: The legacy of Pearse Lyons and his contribution to Irish whiskey is vast. In 2017, the Pearse Lyons Distillery was opened in the beautifully renovated St. James Church in Dublin’s Liberties, adorned with its now famous glass spire. Having experienced the joyous opening of his distillery, Pearse Lyons passed in 2018. The award will be accepted by the Lyons family.
  • Oliver Hughes, Founder of Dingle Distillery: Oliver and colleagues made a decision that was to be a pivotal first in the Irish whiskey renaissance in 2012, establishing a distillery in a redundant sawmill in Co. Kerry. Sadly, Oliver passed in 2016 aged only 55. The award will be accepted by the Hughes family.

David Stapleton added: “I would like to congratulate all of the awardees and thank them for the sustained and positive contribution they have made to our industry. 2020 has been a tough year for everyone – including the Irish whiskey industry. However, the industry has proven itself to be resilient in the past – and will do so again. After decades of decline in the 20th Century, we have experienced a remarkable recovery. I am confident we will bounce back and see Irish whiskey distilleries across the country grow from strength to strength in 2021.”

For more information please visit: https://irishwhiskey360.com/

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