The Boatyard Distillery has successfully closed a £634,000 investment round through the Halo Business Angel Network (HBAN) from private investors and Co-Fund II.

HBAN is a joint initiative of Invest Northern Ireland, InterTradeIreland and Enterprise Ireland, dedicated to the all-island promotion of business angel investment. HBAN allows companies from a wide range of sectors to pitch to angel investors for funding. Co-Fund II is part of the Invest Northern Ireland’s Access to Finance portfolio and is managed by Clarendon Fund Managers.

Joe McGirr, founder of The Boatyard Distillery, said: “We are really pleased to secure this investment and excited about the unique experience our new investors will bring, particularly when it comes to growing our presence overseas. The gin market remains highly competitive but we offer something different, with some botanicals grown on the family farm.”

Situated at Tully Bay Marina on the shores of Lough Erne, The Boatyard Distillery was set up in 2016 and currently produces Boatyard Double Gin, Old Tom gin and vodka. The company has secured deals with supermarket chains M&S and Waitrose to stock their products across Great Britain and Ireland.

In response to the coronavirus crisis, The Boatyard Distillery has diversified and started using the ethanol it normally uses in drinks production to manufacture hand sanitiser, to World Health Organisation specifications.

Speaking to The Impartial Reporter, Joe explained: “When the pandemic kicked off, the first four days we froze and thought, ‘how are we going to survive and what’s going to happen’. So we thought we would just ride this out and wait, but by day four we started to get a sense that it’s going to be a lot of time before we come out the other side. We were either going to freeze and do nothing and lay everyone off, that was before the furlough scheme was introduced, or we could try and improvise. At that time people were crying out for sanitiser and one of the products that we use is the main ingredient in sanitiser, which is the alcohol, so that’s initially where it came from.”

Within a couple of days the demand for Boatyard’s hand sanitiser was high. “Even before we put it out on social media,” said Joe. “The demand was incredibly high from the NHS, from people who were really thinking about survival so first of all we left a stock into the South West Acute Hospital.”

Noting that it was important that the sanitiser was lab tested, Joe said: “Quite early on we realised that not all these products are the same, some of them aren’t even doing the job that people are actually thinking that they are buying them for. That concerned us so we thought, ‘let’s go get this tested’ and that took three weeks longer than we thought it was going to take because it has to be tested on 20 human hands.”

“Thankfully we passed the tests and then we were able to get our labels printed for all of our bottles and get them out,” he added.

Boatyard has given away more than 1,200 litres of sanitiser to front line services in Fermanagh including to NHS key workers and supermarket staff and is now selling the product to customers in other industries, both locally and internationally. The sanitiser will be stocked in Tesco stores in Northern Ireland from today (Thursday, May 14).

“Right now, Covid-19 has interrupted some of our immediate plans but we have responded to the situation by being innovative and using our expertise to produce a product that is not only in high demand but which our health service and key workers desperately need. We are pleased to play our part in the fight against Covid-19 by donating supplies to help those people on the frontline doing great work for everyone in the Fermanagh region,” said Joe.