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Damien Rafferty Of Titanic Distillers Ltd Talks About The Science And Art Of Whiskey-Making

By Donna Ahern
Damien Rafferty Of Titanic Distillers Ltd Talks About The Science And Art Of Whiskey-Making

Donna Ahern talks to Damien Rafferty, head distiller, Titanic Distillers Ltd.

How would you describe your role?

My role is varied, but my main priority is to oversee the production of Irish whiskey at our distillery in Belfast.

It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.

What was your first job, and what did you learn from it?

My first job was in a supermarket in Newry. I really enjoyed working there, and I learned the value of money. It was great to interact with customers, and it gave me a sense of responsibility.

What do you enjoy most about your current job?

I love the satisfaction of taking three ingredients and turning them into a product that is so complex and unique.

My job is a healthy mix of science and art.

There is a lot of chemistry and mechanical operations going on, but I also love the creative side of my role.

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?

I see myself growing with Titanic Distillers.

I believe we will become a world-class whiskey brand, and I am proud to be part of the team.

My advice to anyone starting in this industry is to turn up and get your hands dirty.

A good attitude and a willingness to learn will go a long way.

What was your worst job, and what was so bad about it?

In my first few weeks in Australia, I had a job in a construction recycling centre.

The heat, the flies, the dust and the very low pay were a low point, although I had good craic with all the other backpackers from around the world.

What do you think that the government could do to support businesses?

The cost of energy and raw materials is becoming very difficult for businesses.

A reduction in inflation would be great, but not to the detriment of the public.

What three business people do you most admire, and why?

I love a podcast called ‘How I Built This’, which interviews founders of companies, and there have been some inspiring stories.

Seth Tibbott of Tofurky, an American vegan turkey replacement product, is a particular favourite.

He had a passion for his product and continued, even after 20 years of zero profit.

He believed in a worthwhile cause, and it eventually became a success.

Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard is an inspiration. He started with absolutely nothing and has built an amazing company.

He then donated his $3 billion [fortune] to help fight climate change.

John Teeling is also an inspiration to me.

He had the vision and dedication to revive the Irish whiskey industry. He set the bar for us all in this industry.

What advertising campaign have you most enjoyed in recent months?

I enjoyed the advertising campaign for Titanic Distillers.

As I was part of the team, it gave me a great insight into that aspect of the business that I would not have had otherwise.

If you could bring back one product that is no longer available in Ireland, what would it be?

Wispa Mint – it was delicious. I can’t understand why it was discontinued.

Who would come to your ideal dinner party (living or dead)?

JFK. I think he would have some very interesting things to say, and maybe a few secrets, and his charisma would be captivating.

What is the best piece of advice that you’ve received?

Trust, but verify. I think it’s solid advice.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I have a young family, so my spare time nowadays is mostly trips to the park or soft play, but I used to be very active and was a leader in a hiking club. Nothing beats a tough walk in the mountains with a good bunch of people.

How much time do you spend on social media in an average week?

I try not to spend too much time on social media – I prefer a low-information diet – however, I like to keep up to date with other distilleries on Instagram and LinkedIn.

Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn?


With which fictional character do you most identify?

Mickey Mouse.

Most likely to say?

“Did I hear someone say ‘cake’?”

Least likely to say?

“Prosecco for me, please.”


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