‘We Need to Stay Rooted to the Ground,’ Says Pat Rigney, Founder of Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin, Spirit Brand of the Year | Wine Enthusiast’s 2022 Wine Star Awards

Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin - Gunpowder Gimlet
Image Courtesy of Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin

From Humble Beginnings, Drumshanbo has Grown into a Gin Juggernaut.

When Pat (PJ) Rigney first created the prototype for Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin in 2014, he had visions of a gin flavored with botanicals from around the world, reflecting his own lifetime of travel, but distilled in Ireland, where his own heritage lay. “This is my life’s work,” says Rigney, now managing director and founder of The Shed Distillery, located in Ireland’s western province, Connacht.

After more than three decades working in the spirits industry, including representing legacy Irish brands such as Bailey’s Irish Cream and Irish Mist, Rigney set out to create his own brand, specifically a gin that would be “delicious, exotic, but with lots of layers to it.”

He collected a recipe of 12 botanicals, including Ireland’s meadowsweet and Chinese “gunpowder” green tea, and distilled the gin in Ireland in copper pot stills. He named the brand Drumshanbo, after the remote village where the spirit is based. “My parents met in that village many years ago,” Rigney explains.

The gin had its official debut in 2016, launching first at Europe’s Prowein trade fair—where Rigney connected with U.S. wine and spirits importer Palm Bay—and later that year in the U.S.

Marc Taub, Palm Bay’s president and CEO, subsequently visited The Shed in Ireland. “I couldn’t have been more impressed and excited about what I believed the potential could be,” Taub recalls thinking after that visit. “I was convinced there was something special in Drumshanbo.” He also credits Rigney’s vision and drive, calling him “an idea man and a deep thinker” with “an unbelievable passion for discovery and perfection.”

Today, the brand’s portfolio includes the original Gunpowder gin, as well as variations featuring Sardinian citrus (launched in 2020) and California orange (2022); Sausage Tree Pure Irish Vodka; and Drumshanbo Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey, including a new expression with a Pinot Noir finish unveiled in 2022.

Despite the challenges presented by the pandemic, in 2020 The Shed also opened a new visitor experience at the distillery, including the Jackalope Café, Honey Badger Bar and a gift shop.

With the distillery’s home base rooted in his family heritage, Rigney continues to emphasize the importance of family and community in his business; his wife Denise Rigney and their daughter Roisin Rigney hold key positions alongside company director John Dillon, “rock star” head distiller Brian Taft (the company’s first employee, hired back in 2014), and international market manager Connor O’Brien.

Rigney notes that it has not been easy to build the brand, starting small and weathering the pandemic and supply chain issues. But today, it’s a growth story, sprinting ahead into international markets from Albania to Africa.

“We had very humble beginnings,” he says. “We need to stay rooted to the ground, to stay humble and hungry and focused on looking after our customers.” Yet, it’s also about looking beyond just the day-to-day work, he adds. “Optimism is an essential part of what we bring to the table,” he says.

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Published on November 3, 2022
Topics: Wine Star Awards