Food Academy

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Cape Clear Island Distillery, Ireland’s only offshore island distillery, has been producing its award-winning 3 SQ. MILES gin since November of 2019. A small group of islanders run the day-to-day operations, while the head distiller commutes by ferry from the nearby village of Baltimore. The distillery founders have managed to overcome the challenges associated with locating the distillery on an offshore island and the gin has managed to win several awards at prestigious international competitions, including Gold at the 2020 Bartender Spirits Awards in San Francisco

The recipe for 3 SQ. MILES was developed by a committee of islanders and the gin is produced in small batches. It’s a two-day effort to create the gin, with one distillation consisting of juniper berries, coriander, and cubeb and another distillation incorporating the island-harvested fuchsia, honeysuckle, and laminaria digitata (a type of sugar kelp). These island botanicals are harvested from the fields and hedgerows of Cape Clear, and in the case of the laminaria digitata, from the rocky shoreline directly in front of the distillery.

Cape Clear Island is designated Gaeltacht, or Irish-speaking. It has a year-round population of just 130 people, and has 7 pupils in its local school. The distillery enjoys complete community support, with many islanders holding some equity in the company, and always available to lend a hand when things get busy.

Why locate a distillery on an island eight miles from the shore of the Irish mainland? For the island. It’s a place we love and want to see prosper. Like all Irish islands, the population of Cape Clear Island has declined over the years. With only seven students in the school, it’s constantly under threat of closing. We want something that can provide the opportunity for employment on the island. A place that can draw islanders back from the mainland or abroad. We want island life to remain viable well into the future.

Whereas some craft distilleries will opt to outsource bottling and labelling in order to simplify operations, at Cape Clear Island Distillery, all this work is done on the island, keeping this employment local.

The local SuperValu shops in Skibbereen and Bantry have been exceptionally supportive of our business, running giveaways with us, allowing us floor space for a free-standing display unit, and just generally being friendly and helpful. We look forward to rolling out to more SuperValu locations through Food Academy.

One of the biggest goals in starting the distillery on Cape Clear Island (eight miles off the coast of West Cork, with a population of 130 and just seven students in the local school) was to create jobs and opportunity on the island. As demand for our product grows, we continue to add employment to the island.

Sustainability is perhaps the most central of our core values. We do our best to repurpose things at the distillery site, we use a solar heating system to supplement the power during distillation, and many of our ingredients are sourced from the island itself.

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