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The island of Ireland has a rich and well deserved food heritage. Ireland is divided into two political regions Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland also called Eire in the Irish language (Gaelic).
Northern Ireland consists of six counties and is part of the UK. It is also referred to as the North or the province. The Gaelic name is Tuaisceart Éireann and it is also called Norlin Airlann in Ulster Scots. Ireland has four provinces, Northern Ireland is situated in the Irish province of Ulster.
The province produces a range of speciality food and drinks including whiskey produced from the Old Bushmills Distillery, perhaps the oldest whiskey distillery in the world, the youngest Irish whiskey in the world at the Echinville distillery, Simplyfruit (Ire) Limited's Armagh-Bramley apples and their associated products, Comber potatoes, Toome-eels from the largest eel fishery in Europe, soda farls and the world class Kearney blue cheese. A number of these have protected geographical indication(PGI) status under European law.
I have been fortunate to have taught and / or worked with many of those working in these sectors and in this part of the website, which is not technical, I will attempt to give an impression of some exceptional people and their products.
The author with chemist colleague Ronnie Irvine visited The Echlinville Distillery at Rubane, just outside Kircubbin, in the Ards Peninsula in March 2018. Our guide was Graeme Millar, Distillery Operations’ Manager who explained the establishment of the business, its operation and success to date.
Ards Peninsula and estate heritage
The Ards Peninsula, the name is derived from the Gaelic Aird Uladh meaning "peninsula of the Ulstermen", separates Strangford Lough from the North Channel of the Irish Sea on the north-east coast of Ireland. It has a rich history and unlike many parts of Ulster it has been relatively untouched by “the troubles”. The peninsula has a mild marine microclimate, with dry and fertile soils that supports extensive crop production and dairying. The coast is particularly scenic and home to numerous sea birds.
Graeme outlined the history of the estate that was founded by the Echlin family in the 1730’s. This English “Plantation family” were influential and powerful in Ireland at this time. Bishop Robert Echlin was particularly notable and was the guardian and implementer of the new reformed church in the Diocese of Down and Connor. Charles Echlin, great grandson of Bishop Echlin, bought the two story property in Rubane in the early 1700s and renamed it the Echlinville House and estate. The house forms a majestic backdrop to the Echlinville Distillery.
The distillery was established in 2012, the dream of local man Shane Braniff. He had previously created and established a number of other brands, which included Strangford Gold and Feckin Irish Whiskey. The Echlinville Distillery became the first licenced distillery in Northern Ireland in over 125 years. It distilled ts first spirit in 2013.