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  • Writer's pictureRoann Byrne

Everything Good Started at the Kitchen Table: Anna and Orla Snook O'Carroll, and a Vermouth Love Story 

From Bristol to Valentia: The Story of Ireland's Only Vermouth


Anna & Orla on Valentia Island

Known for Ireland's first vermouth, Anna and Orla's story is a love story of people, plants and place.  


The people being Orla's father who worked as a beekeeper in Kerry for many years, the plants being natural local forages such as gorse and heather, and the place being the beautiful most westerly point of Europe, Valentia Island.  




But every story has a beginning, so let's start there.  

Shall we? 


We're in Bristol, England, where Anna has spent over twenty-five years working in some of the best restaurants. In the nature of her work she knew of vermouth, but had visited a tasting. Here, she was introduced to contemporary vermouths coming out of Europe and the U.K. Orla describes:

 

"When she came home to me she declared that we had to make it" 

 

Their development process, like any great product, wasn't easy, and it "took 18 months to get the recipe right". The couple steeped plants and herbs in alcohol to pull the flavours out, and their kitchen table looked like a mad scientist lab for a few months. But that’s the two core elements of true innovation, the time taken to make something amazing, and the nights of looking like a mad scientist.  


Anna & Orla Foraging

They knew they had gotten the recipe right when friends visiting for Christmas tried it and loved it. In July of 2021, they completed the Supervalu Food Academy and the brand has grown year on year since.  

 

The biggest challenge they faced was space. They quickly outgrew their kitchen table, and rented 6m x 6m from Skellig Six 18 Distillery to get them on their feet. Last year they moved into their own facility, but have big plans for a purpose-built vermouthery and visitor centre on the island in the coming years.  


Valentia Spritz

In creating their incredible vermouth, they uncovered not only versatility in flavour, but in use. The vermouth is naturally low in alcohol, so when mixed with a tonic or soda you can have a light ABV drink, without losing its distinction. Orla describes..."I have always liked that it's not necessarily a drink to get drunk with, but instead one to enjoy". On the other end of the spectrum, you could have the vermouth with sparkling wine as a 'Valentia Sprirtz' or an 'All Irish Martini'. Even a 'Manhattan' or the famous 'Negroni' 

"I have always liked that it's not necessarily a drink to get drunk with, but instead one to enjoy" 

Valentia Island Vermouth

Anna & Orla's market differentiator, bar being the 1st and only Irish vermouth, is their story, and how they tell it. They filled the market gap for giving consumers an alternative to gin and wine, and created a premium Irish product. But in the competitive market – your story is your U.S.P. Every part of the Valentia Island Vermouth brand tells their story, no one else's. That’s what consumers love.  


"They married at the lighthouse after falling in love with the island, the people and the place, with the bottle telling an island love story, steeped in botanicals, salt and wild winds". 

 

In reflecting on their journey, their advice made me sit back and relax my shoulders. "Take your time. It will happen. It's all happening as it should be. Let stuff go. Breathe. Laugh and ENJOY IT. It’s the only one we've got".  

 

Their advice for any fellow food & drink entrepreneur's, is "speak to everyone".  

 

"Do all the courses" from start your own business with LEO, Food Academy with Supervalu, Foodworks with Enterprise Ireland, Bord Bia and Teagasc. Apply for all the grants and funding opportunities. "Don't think about it too much and just go for it. Take each day as it comes. Enjoy it". If they could do it all again, they would have asked for more help early on. 

 

The future is bright for the couple, with plans in 2024 to bring their vermouth to the U.S.A, and the launch of their next vermouth, Rúa. 

 

Anna & Orla Win IFWG Prize

"To think that a part of us is with people, on their kitchen tables chatting or celebrating with their family and friends, makes me want to squeal" 

Okay, I'm off to buy some vermouth. Cheers! 

 



Photography by Ruth Medjber and Joleen Cronin.



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