Connacht Distillery unveils new head distiller

Ryan Friesen, Connacht Distillery

Ryan Friesen has moved to Co. Mayo from California where he was the founding distiller of Blinking Owl distillery



15 February 2022

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The Connacht Distillery has appointed Ryan Friesen as its new head distiller.

Collaborating closely with master distiller Robert Cassell, Friesen will be responsible for the production process from brewing to distillation, maintaining the award-winning quality of distillates.

He will also lead future innovation across spirits categories, with a focus on whiskey, at the Ballina, Co. Mayo based distillery, which has developed an exciting portfolio of brands including Conncullin Irish Gin, Straw Boys Irish Vodka and Connacht Single Malt Batch 1 Irish Whiskey – the first whiskey to be distilled in Co. Mayo in over 150 years.

A native of Indiana, Friesen has moved to Co. Mayo from California where he was the founding distiller of Blinking Owl distillery, the first in California since Prohibition. There, he created and released a number of spirits including two bourbons, a rye whiskey, and other aged and unaged products.

He was also the vice-president of the California Artisanal Distillers Guild, which advocates for craft distillers in the state and creates legislation for the industry.

Friesen said he is thrilled Ryan to join the team at Connacht and have an opportunity to develop his craft.

“When you want to learn from the best, you need to go to the best, which is why I chose to leave California and move to Ballina,” he said. “With the country’s craft spirits movement in full swing, there’s never been a better time to be a distiller in Ireland. I’m very excited for what’s in store at Connacht Distillery.”

Killian O’Sullivan, commercial director at Connacht Distillery, said he was “delighted to welcome Ryan as our new head distiller”.

“Coming to Ballina with his international experience and exceptional skillset, we have no doubt that Ryan will play a big role in the exciting new chapters at Connacht Distillery as we continue to grow and expand into new markets and develop exciting new whiskies,” O’Sullivan said.



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