Irish Whiskey: Distilling Gem

Back to Buckley. He says the success of Jameson has resulted in the Ä100m investment in new stills, doubling Midleton’s capacity to 64 million litres of pure alcohol, and a further Ä100m in buying the land and building 24 new maturation warehouses about four miles from the distillery. 

“It is a statement of intent and confidence in Irish whiskey,” he tells DI: “Irish whiskey was the premier whiskey years ago (post US Prohibition). Now it is re-establishing itself. There is a renaissance. Fifteen or 20 years ago, the back shelf was populated by vodkas. There has been a sea change in the fashionability of whisk(e)y.

“There is growing popularity of whisk(e)y and a massive increase in women drinking whisk(e)y. There is a consumer trend of breaking the boys’ club,” says Buckley

With typical Irish eloquence, he says: “The success of Jameson has been the heavy lifting for the industry. We can now go and polish off the hidden gems. Jameson has blazed the trail.”

With the creation of the single pot still category to rival Scotch’s single malts, ID has added Yellow Spot to Green Spot, we have Power’s John’s Lane, Midleton The Barry Crockett Legacy, Paddy Centenary Edition and a new Redbreast is on its way.

Tullamore’s Batard agrees that Irish whiskey appeals to potential new drinkers. “It is cleaner, fresher and smoother than Scotch and bourbon,” he declares. “It has more heritage than bourbon and a more social image than Scotch.”

Tullamore Dew is number one whisk(e)y in the Czech Republic and number one Irish whiskey in the Baltic countries and Germany. Batard sees the opportunity to “expand the global footprint” of Irish whiskey to Asia and Latin America but acknowledges that it will take time. The E35 million distillery will have a capacity for 850,000 9-litre cases when production gets under way.

Bob Gorman, Beam’s world whiskey marketing director, has an American perspective on the success of Irish whiskey. “Irish whiskey is the fastest-growing category in the US whiskey market, up 400% since 2002, and up nearly 23% in the past year, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States.”

“Irish whiskey as a category has grown at a compound annual growth rate of 8.8% since 2008 (IWSR), outpacing Scotch with a CAGR of 1.7% since 2008 and American whiskey with growth of 4%. Other ‘whiskey’ is primarily led by India and has grown at 12.5% since 2008 (IWSR). The US has been a key driver of Irish performance, representing 34% of the category and growing at 19% CAGR since 2008 (IWSR),” he says.

Stateside growth

He agrees with Lundberg about the spread of Irish whiskey. “We are seeing growth in Irish whiskey across the States as the category extends beyond its East Coast power base. Markets in the Midwest, South and West Coast are growing their share of the Irish category. 

“Irish whiskey is a vast and unique category and it’s important to sample many different styles so LDA (legal drinking age) consumers can truly appreciate how exceptional it is and discover where their tastes lie,” says Gorman.

As well as paying a hefty sum for the Cooley brands, Beam bought the 2 Gingers* brand in December 2012. Gorman sees that brand as stimulating growth and expansion, with particular regard to enticing women in Irish whiskey.