History of Crolly
‘Legal’ distillation of Donegal Irish whiskey re-commenced on September 24th, 2020 at the Old Crolly Doll factory in Killindarragh, Crolly, Co Donegal for the very first time in one hundred and eighty years. The last licensed whiskey distillery was registered to Willian Leathem of Bohillion, Burt, Co. Donegal in early 1840’s. The red-stack chimney remains visible to this day.
The Crolly Doll factory lay dormant for almost 25 years but in 2018 Údarás na Gaeltachta commenced a restoration project. Today the factory originally built in 1901 for carpet making is now a whiskey distillery. Joe Devenney, Conor McMenamin and Kieran Davis are the promoters behind this project. Having a common interest in whiskey and watching the resurgence of Irish whiskey on a global scale they wanted to be part of the story.
This really is an artisanal craft production facility. The size of the operation is really quite small but the intention is to make really good whiskey. Rather than go with the modern technologies available, the choice has been to go back in time and return to the most traditional methods of distillation. Crolly is using the old-style direct fired gas copper pot stills and the traditional worm tub condenser. This intense copper contact method creates the ‘milliard effect’ producing a liquid of greater complexity and rich profile. The liquid is stored in ex-bourbon barrels and left to rest for a minimum of three years on-site in the bounded warehouse. After three years and interacting with the wood, what was a clear liquid on day one, should emerge as a beautiful amber gold viscous liquid unique to this part of the world.
Also unique to this part of the world was a man known as Joseph F. Sinnott – born in nearby Carrickfinn (1837 – 1906). He was the fourth of fourteen children to be born to a family with both military and seafaring roots. Sinnott attended the Lord George Hill School in Gweedore. At the age of 17 he immigrated to America. He was to join with his grandmother and aunts in South Carolina but sadly they perished at the hands of yellow-fever during his transit. He remained in Philadelphia. Sinnott found employment with John Gibson’s and Sons – the largest distiller of rye whiskey in North America. After starting as a junior book-keeper, 32 years later he became the sole proprietor in 1888. At the time, the company was producing 30,000 barrels per annum. Crolly will produce 500 in its first year!