Irish whiskey: The innovation high

If 2020 will be remembered for one thing, it will be how Covid-19 turned the world on its head and caused the closure of pretty much every licensed premise in the world, leading to mass job losses, an untold amount of businesses closing down and a lot of challenging times for a lot of people.

Volumes and value will undoubtedly be down this year given the ongoing mass closure of the on-trade in virtually every country globally, but ultimately this massive dip will be short-lived with forecasts from IWSR showing that the category will be back to 2019 volumes by 2023 / 2024.

Conor McQuaid, CEO and chair, Irish Distillers remains optimistic long-term, saying: “While we are aware of the continuing challenges that the industry faces, we know from history that the Irish whiskey industry has proven itself to be very resilient. Following some serious challenges to the industry due to decades of decline and restrictions, weve experienced a remarkable decade of recovery and export-led growth.

“We believe that will continue, but a priority for the Irish whiskey industry over the coming months will be to consolidate and reboot sales in key existing markets for Irish whiskey, including our all-important home markets.

“With fewer people at pubs, bars and restaurants, more consumers are enjoying a drink from the comfort of their homes and as a result we have seen an increased demand for high quality whiskey with luxury credentials as people look to recreate a premium drinking experience at home. Our approach to innovation and new releases in the past year has allowed us to capitalise on this trend."

Midleton’s O’Gorman adds: “The past decade has been an exciting time of growth for Irish whiskey. Irish Distillers has continued to lead the renaissance of the category through innovation and the development of a diverse portfolio of Irish whiskeys. Innovation has always been at the heart of everything we do. Despite the challenges presented by Covid-19, we remain committed to innovation and look forward to sharing new releases in the year ahead”, says Gorman.

One of the most well received of Irish Distillers’ innovations is the Method & Madness range with its unique maturation policies and world-firsts within their release schedule. It certainly grabs the attention and unilaterally receives praise within the industry.

O'Gorman proudly states that the successful launch of the Method & Madness brand, and its continual expansion, represents our dedication to experimenting with maturation and different wood types. Last year, we introduced a limited-edition world-first; a single pot still Irish whiskey finished in Wild Cherry Wood, an exquisite release which challenged our expertise and approach to whiskey-making.”

Consumers clearly cannot get enough of what the category is doing, the new releases, brands and the general feel-good vibe from producers, and Jameson looks set to fulfil its leadership role as the category recovers from the global pandemic.

“When the bars and pubs in Ireland fully reopen, Jameson intends to launch the First Round on Jamesoninitiative to support on-trade outlets in our domestic market,” concludes McQuaid while putting his AmEx behind the bar. “The scheme offers consumers the chance to claim a free Jameson, Ginger and Lime allowing the participating pub, bar or restaurant to redeem the full retail price for the drink. Many businesses across the UK have expressed their interest in participating in the scheme once venues reopen.”