When Maudeline Black gave her husband Sam a home brewing kit for Valentine’s Day, she never expected that his beer-making hobby would years later turn into a business.
Today Maud and Sam work side by side at their successful micro-brewery and distillery in Kinsale. In fact, it’s the first co-located micro-brewery and distillery in Ireland. As well as being unique, having a micro-brewery and distillery combined means that they can age their beers in spirit barrels and vice versa to increase the depth of flavour. Black’s also produces Ireland’s first and only rum.
Black’s started in May 2013 with one employee, Sam, and one product, KPA (Kinsale Pale Ale).
Since then the business has grown to employ six people and now boasts a range of seven bottled beers, which include a variety of ales, gluten free lager and stouts. Their flagship beer KPA (Kinsale Pale Ale) is an American style pale ale, which uses two varieties of hops to provide a citrus and tropical fruit flavour – it’s a gold medal winner. Another firm favourite with customers is the World’s End Chocolate Vanilla Imperial stout. “It has a deep chocolate hit from the cocoa bean husks used in the mash, which are sourced from Clonakilty Chocolate Company,” says Maud. Black’s also has a draught presence in pubs in West Cork, Cork and around the country.
“The market is much more crowded now so I think having consistency in your product and minding your shelf space and customers is very important,” says Maud.
“It’s not easy, there are still ups and downs, but we’re still excited by what we do and expanding all the time.”
“We’re very lucky to be located in Kinsale; the business owners here are very forward thinking and were all very supportive of us and our products when we first started.
In 2015, Sam and Maud added the distilling side to the business and started producing a range of small batch spirits, the main product of which is
Black’s Gin, which features 13 different botanicals, including wild heather flowers, which are sourced in West Cork. “We’ve had quite a few family members out on West Cork ditches collecting heather,” says Maud laughing.
“A twist of black pepper and a sprig of rosemary or a slice of grapefruit, as we use fresh grapefruit peel in the distillation, goes really well in our gin,” advises Maud.
Black’s Spiced Irish Rum is fermented using Guatemalan sugar cane molasses.
Rum is Sam’s favourite spirit and something they have been working on since the beginning. However, it takes specialised knowledge and equipment to produce and time to mature. “We distill this and barrel age it in oak barrels on site here in Kinsale,” explains Maud.
Black’s Rum is an amazingly complex rum experience, fantastically aromatic.
In the nose – sweet vanilla, butterscotch, cola, banana, coffee and spice just demand your attention. Hints of orange, lime and ripe pears add a fresh fruity balance and exciting character, but the party has only just begun.
On the pallet, molasses, sherry, chipotle and hazelnut develops progressively into velvety Guatemalan coffee, cocoa, cracked black pepper and oak.
Enjoy neat, on the rocks or alternatively with your choice of premium cola or ginger beer.
Next year the plan is to start making whiskey in Kinsale. “Our aim is to expand the distilling side of the business, invest in larger stills to make whiskey and further develop our export side of the business,” explains Maud. Black’s is currently exporting to seven countries worldwide.
Maud and Sam have two young children so between family and work, life in Kinsale is very busy. “We are lucky to have had a lot of support from my family, especially with the boys, as we attend a lot of events in promoting the business,” says Maud, a former nurse originally from Ahiohill near Enniskeane. The couple met while travelling in Australia and Sam, an engineer originally from the UK, moved to West Cork with Maud.
“It’s been a rollercoaster of a journey from day one but we love what we do,” says Maud. “It’s a great high point to see your products on the shop shelf and in pubs around the world and to hear positive feed back from our customers.”
Some West Cork stockists of Black’s beers and spirits and gift packs: Next Door Clonakilty, SuperValu Clonakilty and Kinsale. 1601 Kinsale. Matsons Bandon. Dunnes Stores Clonakilty, SuperValu Bantry.
All pubs, restaurants and hotels in Kinsale. Monk’s Lane Timoleague, The Lifeboat Inn Courtmacsherry, Scannells, GGs and Caseys Bar Clonakilty, Newman’s West Schull, Waterfront Hotel Baltimore. Levis Ballydehob, Connolly’s Leap. Manning’s Emporium Ballylickey, Centra Drimoleague. Centra Enniskeane, Blairscove Restaurant Durrus.