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Growing a global whisky brand – one drop at a time

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Waterford Distillery Group is the force behind the world's first “biodynamic” whisky. Now it’s planning to expand to the US thanks to financing from HSBC.

There are not many whisky brands out there that have a “natural whisky manifesto”. In fact, there’s only one – and that’s for a good reason.

Waterford Distillery Group is an Irish premium whisky distillery that specialises in organic barley grown in the most natural way possible, according to the moon cycle, then left underground to slowly ferment over the winter months.

The distillery, based in the south-east of Ireland, sits on a former Guinness brewery that was kitted out with some nifty technology before it was put up for sale.

This technology is helping Waterford stand out thanks to the “total traceability” of its crops, powered by the blockchain system ProTrace - and now they’re turning their sights stateside.

Breaking boundaries

In its home country and across Europe, technology has helped Waterford to break boundaries and has given the company the opportunity to earn a few accolades, including “the first distillery in Ireland to produce an organic whisky” and “the first distillery in the world to release a biodynamic whisky”.

With the recent investment of USD $48m from HSBC, the group is turning its attention across the pond with the aim of conquering America and has ambitions to become the whisky of choice in the USA.

This financing was made possible through a bespoke cross order asset based lending (ABL) facility to support the company’s growth.

Waterford’s head of brand Mark Newton notes that although breaking into the US is a “tough process”, the company is working with distributors in the region and has relationships with importers in states such as Texas, New York and California.

‘HSBC get us - and that's a big deal’

Waterford Distillery Group launched its first whisky in June 2020 and needed a financial partner who understood the barley-to-whisky lifecycle.

"HSBC understand distilling, they understand the industry, and the processes that are involved," Mark said. "They're familiar with the Scottish and Irish whisky industries. The connection was in place from the start and it seemed effortless. They get us, they get how it works - and that's a big deal".

Prior to Waterford's inception, we worked with the company's owners when they were part of Scotch whisky brand Bruichladdich Distillery. Waterford's chief financial officer John Adams said of the relationship: "HSBC has long understood the complexities of our industry-challenging distilling projects, be that our original whisky business at Bruichladdich, through to the very start of our Irish venture in Waterford.

"I am only too delighted to be working with them once again, particularly as we look to accelerate our growth in sales worldwide over the next four years."

Grant Bett, relationship director at HSBC UK added: "We are delighted to refinance Waterford Distillery and support its ambitious plans to expand internationally, as part of its growth strategy.

"Waterford are a fantastic example of an innovative whisky distiller using local providence and sustainable practices to bring their award-winning brand to the market."

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