Iconic whiskey brand, Powers is continuing to shine a spotlight on the stories of interesting local characters, as part of its Old But Gold campaign. Proudly championing Powers’ rich history, and its ability to stand the test of time, the Old But Gold campaign celebrates the life experience, confidence, and self-assuredness that comes with age. Shining a light on local trailblazers, the campaign highlights the value of lived experience that comes with more trips around the sun, and the rich life experiences and traditions that have been passed down through the generations.
The second episode in the new Powering Conversations interview series is out now, starring custom furniture maker, Mark Justin, owner of Strangford-based bespoke furniture company, Justin Wood and Midleton Distillery archivist, Carol Quinn. The pair, who have a shared love of craft, tradition and history, share a spirited conversation, alongside whiskey blogger, Ronan Collins, in the 50-minute interview, filmed in Mark’s workshop on the banks of Strangford Lough.
Inspired by childhood memories of working alongside his grandfather, Mark left a career in IT to pursue his passion for woodwork in 2018, turning a hobby into a thriving family business, which he says is a ‘dream come true.’
“From the time I could walk, I was in my granda’s workshop. I can still see it and smell it. I just loved it; I was there every summer holiday, every opportunity I had, I was with him, building things, taking things apart. I kept it as a hobby all my life. I had a career in IT, and worked in that for around 15 years but I wasn’t that well mentally; I was really stressed out and started to use the woodworking as a kind of therapy. As I continued on, people started to ask me to make things, and the side line, Justin Wood started back in 2016. It was always my dream to do this fulltime…people used to ask me, ‘do you do this full time’ and I would say ‘I wish.’ And here we are, I’ve been fulltime for four years now, which is amazing.”
One of only 200 archivists in Ireland, Carol Quinn has been the custodian of the impressive Archive at Midleton Distillery, home to Powers Irish Whiskey, for the last 10 years. Helping to understand and interpret masses of historical documents collected over hundreds of years, she understands more intimately than most how our past informs the present.
“Before you can plan for the future, you need to understand your past,” says Carol. “There’s an essential DNA running through Powers that we stay very true to; the first step is to come to the archives, understand ‘what does this brand saying to people’ and innovate out of that. When the John’s Lane Distillery shut in the 1970s Dublin, the records were all still there. They kept all their records; they knew they were important but they didn’t know what to do with them. It wasn’t until about 12 years ago, when the Archive was set up in Midleton that those records were able to be looked at properly for the first time. It took me five years to do an initial sorting, I can’t say I have really progressed much with the cataloguing, that’s going the job of the person coming after me, but there’s no rush, we want to do it right. I am always finding something new. People say ‘you didn’t tell us that last year.’ I didn’t know it last year! And next year, I’m going to know more, which is what makes it exciting.”
Last year, Mark collaborated with Powers to turn a whiskey barrel into a range of display cases and wooden coasters and whiskey flights, branded with the iconic Powers ‘diamond P’. Now, in a new collaboration, he has been commissioned to create a wooden frame for a new Powers mirror, continuing a long tradition of craftsmanship, with distinct local links.
Powers mirrors have been an iconic fixture in pubs across Ireland and around the world for over 200 years. And, documents uncovered by Carol in the Archive recently have revealed that two craftsmen from Belfast were among those that original handcrafted and upkept these intricate, ornate mirrors.
Speaking about the commission, Mark said:
“It’s such an honour, when you hear the stories behind what that symbolises… it’s lovely to be part of it and to know the story behind it makes it even more special.”
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