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Our Story

The formation of an idea

Like every business, Nolans began as an idea in someone's head. In this case, the head belonged to Harry Joseph Nolan, the year 1912. He was working part-time as a fish salesman in the Belfast fish market, when he was offered a job as a customs and excise officer in Northern Ireland.

He enjoyed the fish business so much that he decided not to accept the job offer but instead to use his knowledge and experience to set up on his own. That choice led to the growth of a business that covers three generations of Nolans history; having passed to Vincent Nolan and then to his son in turn George Nolan, our present chairman. Today that idea in Harry Joseph Nolans head has resulted in a successful family business which employs almost 300 people in Ireland and Scotland with a turnover of over €30 million.

Smoked salmon

In the early 1950's there was a glut of salmon in the marketplace. So much so, that it was sold in fish and chip shops around Britain and Ireland. Gourmet feasts could be had for 2 & 6 pence lb.! At that time, only smoked salmon over 12lbs could be smoked. But there didn't seem to be any clear reason for this. Enter the entrepreneurial spirit of Vincent Nolan, son of the founder Harry Nolan; he started to smoke the smaller sized fish and soon Salmon was being smoked and sold as a rare delicacy.

An advertisement in the Sunday Times followed and in a short space of time they were established as the first fish company with a mail order business in the British Isles. Even then, orders went all over the world. The fish was the same as today but the packaging very different compared with modern vacuum packing. Back then it was wrapped in greaseproof paper and boxed in corrugated cardboard and string.


Supply of quality Smoked Salmon to ordinary and specialty stores was to follow in the mid '60's. The first such customer was McConnell's on Grafton Street, Dublin. On walking in, one could view the fish hanging in the open. The smoky aroma floating in the shop would make the mouth water.

Its distinctive light smoky flavour and smooth silky texture gives a mouth-watering succulent taste that is unique to Nolans. 'Our goal is not to produce a good salmon but to produce the very best smoked salmon that we can', says George Nolan, Chairman and grandson of the founder, Harry Nolan.

The excellence of quality and uniqueness of taste was greatly appreciated by the likes of Frank Sinatra who received a side of Nolans Smoked Salmon each Christmas. Vincent Nolan, Harry's son, was an avid music lover and talented musician himself and has being known to play with the one and only ‘blue eyes’! So it should come as no surprise that many a melodic genius has sampled the succulent tradition that is Nolans Smoked Salmon. The James Last orchestra has played many a tune on their taste buds with Nolan's pride of place.

The Irish delicacy has also found itself on the plates of American presidents such as John F. Kennedy, Linden Johnson and Henry Kissinger. It was usually specifically requested for official functions at the White House. Another big fan has been Governor Hugh Carey, the saviour of New York and the man responsible for the 'I love NY' logo. Every year, he gave Nolan’s smoked salmon as a gift to all of his friends for Christmas. 'The finest smoked salmon I have ever tasted', he said. One of many admirers.

The good and the great still appreciate the uniqueness of taste and flavor which comes from the time honoured tradition and passion that is the essence of Nolans Smoked Salmon.


The 1990's were a busy time for Nolan’s. In 1991 three acquisitions of fish companies were made. Thomas Murphy Dublin Ltd., Thomas Hanlon & Co. Ltd., and Carroll’s of Connemara all joined the Nolan family. As a result economies of scale were achieved that allowed the Irish company to provide a constant supply of top quality salmon all year round. Our range of products expanded and they developed their dealings with large supermarket chains and the export market.

George Nolan, Chairman, watched the fulfilment of a dream when a new state of the art factory opened in 1995. At the time, many said that the facility was too big for the market requirements. This was true. But things change. In Nolans' case, they change very quickly. Today, every inch of the factory is being used due to phenomenal demand for their products. So much so, that they are once again looking to the future and the creation of another processing plant. This time few believe it is not required.

In 2002 George Nolan turned his attention to Aberdeen, Scotland – another home with a great tradition for Salmon and like Ireland - well renowned for its unique natural environment, clean waters and fresh Atlantic air. George acquired controlling interests in a number of bespoke salmon smokers and today he is the founder of a primary processing plant on an eight acre site employing over 230 workers in Aberdeen. From here they ship on a weekly basis to customers through Europe, the Middle East and the USA, with a high percentage of our white fish production exported to France. Our IQF business services the value added market both in UK and for export.

From Scotland they produce 50 tonnes of white fish fillets, 65 tonnes of salmon fillets and 25 tonnes of salmon portions per week with these numbers growing constantly. They have introduced recycling stations in Scotland throughout the factory to reduce the factory’s environmental impact and to help keep the processing costs low.

Today Nolans' Dublin produce over 500,000 kg of smoked salmon; Conventional, Wild and Organic. The uniqueness of our salmon lies in the curing method, which has been developed over the last century we have been in business. It's a slow traditional method using salt and raw cane sugar. To this day it is still applied by hand and the fish are left to cure for anywhere from 24 hours to 48 hours for a larger fish. They are eventually smoked with a mixture of beech and oak chippings creating that rich smoky flavour.

Innovation and tradition

While smoked salmon represents about 40% of our business, Nolans also provide a range of fresh and frozen seafood products. Innovation has always been a part of the way we do business. In October 1998, we launched Nolans Prawn Cocktail, which became the highest growth chilled product in the Irish market.

We were also the first in Ireland to move from wooden to plastic fish boxes, open trucks to refrigerated ones and chimney kilns to automatically controlled smokers. This attitude obviously pays off which is why Nolans continue to seek out new, convenient and tasty offerings that can be appreciated by anyone.

Nolans today is still very much a family affair. George Nolan, the grandson of founder Harry, acts as Chairman. This kind of involvement has resulted in a very tight knit and professional team focused on ensuring consistency of product. After all it's our livelihood and we take great pride in bringing the best salmon to you, our customers – loyal customers since that first idea back in 1912!

Where We Are Now

Our expertise and time honoured tradition can be experienced whenever one tastes our Smoked Salmon products. As Master Smokers we produce Conventional Smoked Salmon, Organic Smoked Salmon as well as Wild Smoked Salmon in a wide range of pack sizes and formats. We can ship any of these products to anywhere at your request in secure packaging. They make for very attractive gifts for family and friends.

We also produce Gravad Lax, Smoked Mackerel, Smoked Kippers, Smoked Haddock and Smoked Cod.

Our Dublin processing unit and Smokers are located less than 800 meters from the River Liffey through which Salmon and Trout swim on their migratory routes to their traditional spawning grounds.

As Fish Merchants we offer the freshest of fish – Cod, Hake, Plaice, Whiting, Haddock and Mackerel as well as a large range of fresh and frozen shellfish, prawns, crab meat and lobster. We produced high quality Prawn Cocktails and added value Poached Salmon products.

To deliver the best product and aim for a continuity of supply, we have long term relationships with all our suppliers and are committed to only sourcing sustainable produce.

Our quality department monitor hygiene and temperature throughout the process to ensure high product quality is maintained whilst complying with the fish processing industry requirements. We are very proud of our highly experienced production team who produce high quality produce to customer specification, be it filleted and portioned, butterfly or single fillets for white fish. In our new modern facility we also can freeze (Blast or tunnel) most of the products.

Our Accreditations include: 

Nolans Aberdeen 

• MSC-Chain of Custody Approved


• FDA approval No-15006851248

• EU Approval No-UK AA107EC

• Organic Food Federation approved

Nolans Dublin

• BRC-A Rated SITE

• EU Approval No-IE DN0016EC

• Irish Organic Farmers and Growth Association Approved


  • Our journey from the past to the present

  • Learn why our salmon is so special

  • How you can use our seafood in your kitchen


  • "Last week we celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary. As part of our celebrations we had Nolans Smoked Salmon. Both my wife and myself just remarked that we have being eating your salmon before we actually married. We still enjoy the beautiful smoky taste that is its hallmark. Well done and keep up what is now a tradition."

    Mr. & Mrs Oonagh Doyle, Dublin
  • "I thought I ought to write to thank you again for the superb smoked salmon, which tasted even better than previous years. It was delicious! I do hope this year brings you plenty good cheer and happy times."

    Tim & Caroline, Bristol