JOHN O’Connell of Skibbereen-based West Cork Distillers has been named the EY Industry Entrepreneur of the Year for 2020.
The annual awards ceremony, which was televised last Thursday and held virtually for the first time in its history, was ‘attended’ online by an audience of more than 2,000 people, including prominent business and political leaders.
West Cork Distillers is one of the largest, wholly-Irish owned distilleries in Ireland, with a distillation capacity of 4m litres of pure alcohol.
With distributors across the globe, its award-winning West Cork Irish Whiskey and Garnish Island Gin are now being sold in almost 70 countries. The company has commercial staff in the USA, UK, Russia, Latin America and the Caribbean.
It has also produced the popular Graham Norton pink gin, which was launched in 2019 and the BBC broadcaster paid a visit to the distillery on the Marsh Road in Skibbereen to launch the product at the time.
West Cork Distillers also contract-manufactures Irish whiskey for global spirits companies that require an Irish whiskey in their portfolio without investing in a physical distillery. In fact, West Cork Distillers contract-manufactures Irish whiskey for some of the largest retailers in the world and markets and sells bulk alcoholic ingredients for spirits producers.
The Skibbereen firm also has an Irish Co-operative Organisation Society (ICOS)-approved co-operative foundation whereby locals from West Cork and beyond can purchase Irish whiskey for investment purposes. The business has bursaries with the local schools in Skibbereen for the most improved science students for a given school calendar.
West Cork Distillers was founded in 2008 by three lifelong friends – Denis McCarthy, Ger McCarthy and John O’Connell in Union Hall.
Chaired by the 2006 EY Entrepreneur of the Year Anne Heraty, the awards judging panel includes previous winners Michael Carey, Mark Roden, Evelyn O’Toole, Dr Edmond Harty, Joe Hogan, Jerry Kennelly, Brendan Mooney, Harry Hughes and Denis O’Brien, as well as Jennifer Melia from Enterprise Ireland and Jeremy Fitch from Invest Northern Ireland. The awards ceremony is available on the RTÉ Player.