By Kevin Dowling
Athenry has always been known for the ‘Fields of Athenry’ song but now it may soon become popular thanks to its vodka. Three years ago, Ciaran Kelly, a farmer from Athenry came up with this idea of launching his own potato based vodka in the heart of Co. Galway.
As a potato farmer it has been some time since Kelly thought about making a “by product of potatoes” and after a lot of thought, he felt vodka was the perfect choice.
He has invested a lot of time and money in what is the project of his life. Kelly has spent a substantial amount of money in ‘Counting Pigs’.
Counting Pigs: A long road towards the commercialisation of the vodka
Ciaran Kelly had to transform his ideas into a concrete real project. It was when Carlow IT believed in his vodka project that Kelly saw a future for it: “I started to believe in it the day Carlow IT came on board to test the potatoes and varieties for alcohol yield! Most distilleries had said it’s very hard and not worth it, but they didn’t have the raw materials”.
Following the positive outcome of the potato testing in Carlow IT, Kelly decided to go and look for a distillery in Ireland that would work with him. However it didn’t turn out as planned and had to go searching in Europe to finally find some partner who would make his vodka.
Everything was made in Poland before being brought back to Ireland and stored before finally being commercialised.
Despite the vodka being made in Poland, it remains a product from Co. Galway. Ciaran Kelly says that ‘Counting Pigs’ is “a true product, made with our potatoes growing in Athenry”.
A lot of things were planned before the vodka could actually be sold. Choosing its filter, the bottles and their design, the name of the brand…. All of these tasks were actually harder than producing the vodka itself. “We picked which filter we wanted for the final product and went with it! Then picking bottles and picking a name was the hardest because we wanted to keep the provenance in the product! We would have worked on trademarks in the meantime as well.”
Why the name “Counting Pigs”?
As Kelly mentioned he wanted to “keep the provenance in the product”, in other words the customer has to see in the vodka’s name that it comes from Athenry.
Many people might wonder why he didn’t go with the ‘Fields of Athenry’ as it is the most obvious and relatable for people outside of Co. Galway and even outside of Ireland.
However, Kelly says that it should be linked to Athenry and not the fields of Athenry for marketing and commercial reasons: “It is mentioned on the label, not the fields of Athenry but Athenry. Need to be somewhat disruptive in the market like that. And the popular name ‘Athenry’ would only carry itself so far. Can only go so far with a potato but you can go anywhere in the world with vodka”.
After thinking of some few names ‘Counting Pigs’ seemed to be the perfect choice. This name was carefully chosen as Kelly said that “Athenry was once known as the plain of counting pigs”. And that is how ‘Counting Pigs’ was born.
Before the vodka can be sold to the public, Kelly still has a few more things to do. A photoshoot is planned for the end of November for the advertising part of the project. He will then “list it with Irishmalts” and sell the vodka online.
He hopes that Counting Pigs will grow over the years to firstly seduce the Irish market and then expand to the big European and American markets.