IBD's 138th anniversary

Rowan Lacey, Distillery Operator at Church of Oak Distillery

Could you please introduce yourself briefly and share how you started working in the drinks industry?

My name is Rowan Lacey, I'm from Dublin and I currently work as a distillery operator at Church of Oak distillery in Kildare, Ireland. I had been passionate about whiskey for several years, but began working in the drinks industry as a brand ambassador in 2018, through the Jameson Graduate Programme. I made the move into whiskey production in 2021.

When did you become a member of the IBD, and what attracted you to become a member?

I became a member of the IBD in early 2020 when I enrolled for the General Certificate in Distilling, which was recommended to me by several colleagues as a great course to improve my knowledge around spirits production. 

Can you share a highlight or memorable experience from your time as a member of the IBD so far?

One recent highlight was attending the Irish Section annual dinner last month, which was a fantastic opportunity to meet and catch up with colleagues from across the industry and get a very tangible sense of the great community that we have. 

How do you see the industry evolving in the coming years, and what opportunities or challenges do you anticipate?

There is fantastic work being done to make the whiskey industry more inclusive of all genders, and to showcase the amazing work that traditionally underrepresented groups are doing across spirits more broadly. I hope this continues to improve in the coming years. Sustainability is rightly front of mind for many, if not most, companies, but finding ways to produce spirits in a way that is not simply carbon neutral, but actively improves our environment and society is a fascinating challenge and opportunity.

How do you stay updated with industry trends and advancements?

Social media (Instagram in particular) is my day-to-day source of information on trends and advancements, but I also find magazines very helpful, not least BDI! I also try to attend as many tastings and events as I can, to experience new products first-hand, and keep up to date with the consumer-facing side of the industry.  

Are there any mentors or role models who have had a significant influence on your career journey?

Irish whiskey is full of fantastic role models, but I must give a shout out to Gerard Garland (formerly of Irish Distillers Ltd), who was a huge source of encouragement when I was initially trying to get into the industry, and a great mentor in my first few years. He was also the first to recommend the IBD courses to me.  

Finally, is there anything else you would like to share about your experience in the industry? We welcome any additional thoughts, anecdotes, or reflections you'd like to contribute.

As I mentioned above, I think the drinks industry has a really special sense of community. I have always found people to be very welcoming, encouraging and supportive to newcomers. It’s a privilege to be part of an industry that brings people together the way ours does.