The Connacht Whiskey Company Ltd. is the result of a dream shared by four men, three Americans and one Irishman, to bring single malt pot still Irish whiskey back to the West of Ireland after an absence of over 100 years. These men share bonds of family and friendship. They also share a respect of heritage and a commitment to Connacht, one of the most natural and unspoiled regions of Ireland.
Like many Irish-Americans, the Stapletons were eager to reconnect with family in Ireland. Over tea one afternoon in an Irish B&B, the American Stapletons found cousins who had chosen to remain in Ireland. Both families, on either side of the Atlantic, had flourished.
Recognising that in 2012 there were very few Irish distilleries making Irish whiskey, the Stapletons decided to develop their own distillery and provide more choice to consumers both in Ireland and the USA.
They decided to build a craft distillery, based on the west coast of Ireland that would produce craft whiskies and spirits of the finest order.
They realised, however, that they needed more expertise in craft distilling, marketing, and sales to make their dream a reality, so they reached out to friends.
Two friends joined them to make the dream a reality. The first friend was an award-winning master distiller who had won numerous international gold medals and also custom designed stills. The second friend had over thirty years experience in the complicated U.S. spirits industry. That friend’s mother happened to have been born and raised in County Sligo, 30 minutes from the distillery.
This is the dream of four men who combine the best of what it means to be Irish and American.
Our master distiller, Robert Cassell, is not just an employee or a consultant of the company. He is a founder and director of Connacht Whiskey Company Ltd. Robert studied and trained in Scotland at the Heriot-Watt University. His award-winning craft spirits command an impressive following, and he has won numerous international gold medals in four spirit categories – gin, whiskey, vodka, and specialties.
Robert’s skill is not limited to designing fabulous mash bills and overseeing the distillation process. Unlike most master distillers, Robert custom designed our three pot stills for the sole purpose of making great Irish whiskey. Although Robert is a native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, his Irish ancestors lived on Crow Street in Dublin, only steps from the famous Temple Bar.
Founder: David Stapleton was born and raised in County Galway and currently resides in nearby Castlebar, Mayo, where he is known to spend a little time on the local golf links. Dave has an extensive background in engineering and founded an engineering consulting business that he still runs. Dave previously worked as the GM at Greenstar LTD and as an Operations Manager for Volex Europe. David and PJ are Stapleton cousins.
Founder: Tom Jensen has strong ties to western Ireland. His mother was born and raised on a small farm near Cloonacool, Sligo, where the River Moy rises in the Ox Mountains. A native of Chicago, Illinois, Tom attended the University of Notre Dame. He lives in Connecticut and has been in the spirits industry for over 30 years. Tom previously was the CEO of Remy Cointreau USA and has founded a craft whiskey distillery in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Founder: PJ Stapleton has Irish roots that trace back to Tipperary and County Galway. Raised in western Pennsylvania, PJ also attended the University of Notre Dame. He currently resides in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he is a partner in a law firm. PJ is the past Chairman of both the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board and the National Alcohol Beverage Control Board. PJ also is a founder and director of U.S.-based Enterprise Bank.
Head Distiller: John Park hails from Scotland and was trained as a distiller and brewer at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland. He currently resides in Ballina and his responsibility covers all the production at the distillery. John joins us after spending 8 years with Guinness (Diageo Ireland).
Tours and Retail: Lyndsey Harkins was also born and raised here in Ballina. She joins us after 8 years in retail both here in Ireland as well as in Vancouver, Canada. Lyndsey runs our retail shop and visitors centre and is usually the first person to greet you when you visit.