Natterjack owner says Covid is behind the board of examiners, not the distillery boom

Aidan Mehigan, the co-founder of Gortinore Distillery, which owns Natterjack whiskey brand, has said he hopes the company will secure up to €4 million in the funding it needs to survive on the road to testing.

n Interim auditor, KPMG’s Shane McCarthy, was recently appointed to the whiskey company after the owner of an €850,000 loan made available to the company in 2018 initially relocated to take the company into bankruptcy.

This loan was provided by a Jersey based company called Cowcub.

While Dublin-based US businessman Joseph Elias is listed in audit documents linked to Cowcub, recent Channel Islands records show that the Jersey firm is wholly controlled by Mr Elias’ wife Donna-Marie Sabga.

The total debt owed on the loan, including interest, is believed to be 1.3 million euros.

Other supporters of Gortinore, who originally planned to build an €8million distillery in an old wool mill at Kilmacthomas in Co Waterford, are the Keane family behind BMW dealer Frank Keane.

Other shareholders include businessman David Gavagan, a veteran of the Irish venture capital sector.

Jordan Via, a California-based master distiller who helped create Gortinore’s whiskey, also owns shares in the Irish company.

A report was prepared by PwC’s Declan McDonald stating that the distillery has a reasonable chance of survival if it successfully navigates the review panel.

A full hearing on the Examination Office is scheduled to take place on May 23.

Speaking of Irish IndependentMr. Mehigan said the company generated sales of about €250,000 in 2019 after launching earlier in the year.

However, he said the Covid pandemic has had a major negative impact on the group’s ability to market its whiskey effectively.

“Covid destroyed our sales for two years,” he said. “It’s a brand that we’ve launched really well, but I wasn’t able to go back to markets until earlier this year. You can only push so much on Instagram. We suffered from that. But the brand has a bright future. The interest is great.”

He said sales of his whiskey have been strong in three cities in China, as well as countries like the United States and Canada.

“We’ve done quite a bit without a lot of capital,” he said. “We had to enter the auditor body so that we could act from it. And that’s what the process is for – good companies that have huge debts that they can’t pay.”

Mr Mehigan added that he hopes that a significant portion of the additional investment needed will come from a single funder, while he also expects existing investors to raise more money. He has solicited investors in the US — where several other private investors in the business are already based — to secure the additional funding.

The number of distilleries and breweries established in Ireland has skyrocketed over the past decade. Mr Mehigan insisted that given the growth trajectory of overall Irish whiskey sales, they should all be able to survive. Natterjack owner says Covid is behind the board of examiners, not the distillery boom

Fry Electronics Team

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