Beam Inc, the US conglomerate which recently took over Lockes Distillery in Kilbeggan, has announced that eight jobs are to go at its south Westmeath site.
However, in news that softens the blow, the firm has also said that at least three of these redundancies will be offered new roles in the marketing side of operations at the 255-year-old facility.
These are the first job losses at the distillery since Lockes’ parent company Cooley Distillery was taken over by Beam Inc in December for €73m.
“We have undertaken a comprehensive review of the current structure at the Kilbeggan Distillery ... to ensure we have the right organisational structure to drive our ambitious growth objectives,” said David Hunter, vice-president of international operations.
He went on to suggest how his company plans to increase investment at the site in the “brand and overall distillery experience” by a factor of five which would increase the number of visitors by a quarter within the next year.
“A bigger, stronger business will increase worldwide demand for Kilbeggan and support more jobs in the future,” he added.
Whiskey was first distilled under licence at this site on the banks of the Brosna in 1757, two whole years before a certain Arthur began his 9,999 year lease in St James’s Gate, and it is believed to be the oldest distillery in the world.
Business continued for 200 years until doors closed in 1957, but a move to restore the distillery was begun by a number of driven locals in 1982, and the unit started to produce its iconic whiskey again in 1997 using almost all of the original machinery.
In 1798 the first heir to the distillery John McManus was executed at Gaol Hill in Mullingar for his part in the United Irishmen rebellion.
One of the reasons given for the demise of the distillery in the early half of the 20th century was that after prohibition was lifted in the USA in 1933, Lockes were unable to export to this market because of the amount of substandard, non-Irish whiskey bootleggers distributed falsely under the Lockes name during this turbulent period.
Ironically, it is now the US market that is giving Lockes its new lease of life.