The Stillhouse of Moira
Northern Ireland’s first craft spirit producer, Hughes Craft Distillery, has come a long way in eight years. From humble beginnings, the multi-award-winning distillers recently embarked on another exciting step following the creation of a new gastropub, gin school and visitor centre.
Located in the village of Moira, County Down, The Stillhouse of Moira was formerly known as The Fourtrees but thanks to major investment has been transformed into a destination venue. Feedback on the gastropub has been hugely positive since opening and with the gin school and visitor centre still to come, it promises to be a busy summer for owners Stuart and Barbara Hughes. Barbara commented:
“Having outgrown our current premises, we wanted to find a setting to really showcase our craft. Moira village was an obvious choice, for both its picturesque setting and ideal location for distribution links. The old three storey coach house which now houses our distillery was once the stopping point to feed and water the horses on their journey from Dublin to Belfast. The longstanding white washed walls and stonework in the courtyard, with the rich wooden floors and high ceiling trusses inside give a real sense of belonging. The buildings have been tastefully restored with a contemporary theme to the main bar and a rustic character and attitude to the distillery bar by John Diven & Co Architectural Joinery. The beautiful walled beer gardens are the icing on the cake at this magnificent venue.
“The food and drink scene in Northern Ireland is buzzing and we’re proud to showcase our skills, crafts, produce and exports on a global stage. With the creation of our experiential visitor centre, gin school and gastropub we’re creating a true food tourism hotspot to showcase the best local produce complemented with our small batch spirits.”
John Diven, Owner of John Diven & Co, which produces bespoke architectural joinery products along with design and application, said: “Our businesses are actually located on the same street and I was invited to the site by Stuart and Barbara to have a look at the interior of the building and to come up with some way to improve it and to change the dynamic and feel of the bar.
“After a consultation with Stuart and Barbara, I encouraged them to really go further than what they had originally anticipated and to change the feel and dynamic of the place and to really create something that was both new and fresh in the pub but at the same time had a familiarity to the locals. It would then embrace the locals back into the pub, because it had declined greatly over the years, and would create a bar that would bring people in from further-a-field.
“The first thing we did was make the bar the main focal point and we did that with colour, lighting and materials. We wanted to make the bar both approachable but at the same time give it an opulent look with a degree of familiarity and comfort to it for the local people.”
Food at The Stillhouse is served under the watchful eye of Chef Dave McClelland. Customers have an excellent choice of meals across, produced using the best local produced to the highest standards. Dishes currently include Honey Roasted Irish Ham Shank; Cherry Valley Duck Fillet; County Antrim Spring Lamb Rump; and Thai Green Seafood Curry. The steak menu showcases some of the best Irish grass fed beef.
Looking ahead, the addition of a new interactive visitor centre and gin school will allow members to get hands on experience of the distilling process. Offering a unique chance to go behind the scenes, prospective spirit connoisseurs will have the opportunity to produce their own bespoke vodkas, gins or liqueurs. The opening of the gastropub created an initial 30 new jobs for the area and the addition of the new visitor experience and school will increase this benefit.
Currently, Hughes Craft Distillery supply their range of spirits to a number of award-winning restaurants in Northern Ireland, including the acclaimed Wine & Brine, James Street South, and Michelin star-winning restaurants, OX and Deanes.
The small-batch spirits company currently exports its award-winning drinks range to a number of key markets, including Europe, Australia, Asia and the Middle East. In 2015 the firm secured an export supply deal to introduce the RubyBlue range, and in particular their RubyBlue Potato Vodka, to the Russian market.
To find out more about The Stillhouse of Moira, please visit www.stillhousemoira.com.