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Fitting birthplace for a fine tipple -- a Stateside Irish bar

It all started at the Plough & Stars bar in Boston.

In 1987, John Teeling was studying at Harvard and had an idea how to launch a new Irish whiskey.

At the same time, Willie McCarter was at the nearby Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), weighing up the options to establish a distillery and whiskey operation in his native Donegal. Over a few evenings, the pair swapped ideas and formed the basis for the business that became Cooley Distillery.

For the next 24 years, they joined with other investors to build the business that has become a labour of love, particularly for Mr Teeling.

A new casket of its whiskey is prepared to celebrate the birth of each of his grandchildren with their name and date of birth stamped on it. One is being prepared for his new granddaughter this week.

Given his long attachment to the business, he said yesterday its sale was "bitter-sweet", but it was the right decision for its shareholders.

The dream to create Cooley took shape through the purchase of the old Locke's distillery in Kilbeggan in 1988.

There was a plan to relaunch some of its famous old Irish whiskey brands that were dominant in the 19th Century.

Locke's had closed in the 1950s when the struggling business went into liquidation, but members of the local community -- including the current distiller manager Brian Quinn and his wife Bernadette -- came together to preserve the original machinery from what was the world's oldest distillery.

Last year, it unveiled a complete distillery at Kilbeggan and the refurbishment of its 180-year-old still. It has a sister distillery in the Cooley Penninsula.

Over the years, Cooley has expanded to become Ireland's only independent whiskey producer and sells its award-winning brands, Kilbeggan, Tyrconnell, Greenore and Connemara, around the world.

Mr Teeling is an old-style entrepreneur who didn't invest in property during the boom here and who has extensive interests in mining companies.

So what will he do now?

He was "not short of companies", Mr Teeling said.

Irish Independent