#DiscoverIrishWhiskey – a premium starting point

We review the Irish whiskey market which is very much geared towards premiumisation.

In 2020, 11.4 million cases of Irish whiskey were sold around the world, a slight decrease on 2019 but still exceeding expectations for what was a challenging year and one of the main reasons for this collapse has been laid at the door of Global Travel Retail.

But Irish whiskey sales held up or even increased in markets such as the domestic one, the UK, the US and Canada.

North America and Europe account for 84% of Irish whiskey’s exports which were worth €890 million in 2019 according to the Irish Whiskey Association.


Ireland itself was responsible for nearly 600,000 cases as consumers’ appreciation for Irish whiskey and ‘buying local’ grew still further in Lockdown, possibly aided by Drinks Ireland|Irish Whiskey’s #DiscoverIrishWhiskey campaign.

With 39 distilleries now operating here, Irish whiskey accounts for 26% of the 2.3 million case Irish spirits market according to IWSR. This includes 591,000 cases of Irish whiskey.

Premium value

According to the Irish Whiskey Association’s William Lavelle, “Premium and Super-Premium brands have consistently recorded the largest percentage sales increases in recent years, including in Ireland (albeit from a lower base than standard price brands).

“It’s clear that more and more Irish consumers are willing to purchase Premium and Super-Premium Irish whiskeys. This is being supported by the increasing availability of aged stock but it’s also testament to the high quality and superb character of Premium Irish whiskey.

“Premiumisation also offers substantial benefits to Irish bars through higher margins for sales of higher price-point whiskey. As part of our broader #DiscoverIrishWhiskey campaign, the Irish Whiskey Association is currently working on developing guidance for bars on how better to promote and sell Irish whiskey including more Premium Irish whiskey.”

The Association’s planned #DiscoverIrishWhiskey on-trade programme includes:

  • a formal education initiative in coming weeks to support Irish bar staff in improving their knowledge of Irish whiskey and gain a recognised qualification
  • the promotion of Irish whiskey cocktails at Irish on-trade level, building on the learnings from the #DiscoverIrishWhiskey campaign which showed that the IWA’s social media and online content on Irish whiskey cocktails proved highly popular with Irish consumers, with a very high click-through rate from its social media posts to its Irish whiskey cocktail online recipes.

However, William warned, “Covid-19 has impacted many Irish whiskey exporters, particularly SMEs. The inability to travel internationally reduced their scope for engagement with business customers and their capacity for brand promotion and activation. The impact was even more pronounced for newer, less-established brands, many of which are now playing catch-up. However, the resilience of Irish whiskey sales during 2020 means the future remains bright for Irish whiskey.”

William pointed out that, “We need a new narrative about Irish Whiskey and how we talk about it” while stressing the importance of moving consumers up the value chain.

“How do we convert whiskey drinkers in Asia and Africa to Irish whiskey?” he asks, “By emphasising its depth and diversity so there must be a strong focus on Ireland, its history, craft and geography.”


The #DiscoverIrishWhiskey campaign 


“It’s very important to be able to engage with the media internationally on the category,” says William Lavelle, Head of the Irish Whiskey Association, “When we talked about Ireland being the home of Irish whiskey and distilling, it resonated very strongly with consumers, so this is a Unique Selling Point – Ireland, the home of distilling – going forward.”

This point was picked up and promoted by a number of Irish embassy networks around the world recently and the Association is grateful for the support given it by this network.

“For example, the Mexican Embassy organised a webinar on Irish Whiskey aimed at media and trade buyers across Latin American markets,” he says.

“Tourism Ireland helped promote this by translating content into the individual markets too,” he adds, “Now there needs to be a lot more focus on engaging with the trade here in Ireland. The next steps in the campaign will be to develop and launch a training course for Irish bar staff focused on Irish Whiskey.”

From grain to glass Tullamore Dew produces award-winning whiskey blends and achieves global success

As one of Ireland’s leading grain to glass whiskey distilleries, Tullamore Dew produces its expertly-crafted whiskey from start to finish in one location. From the first delivery of barley grains to milling and mashing, triple-distilling and finally bottling its award-winning liquid, the entire process is managed on-site.

The process is quite complex and is all about precision. Tullamore Dew follows a rule of three – three ingredients, a three-day fermentation, three distillations, three styles of whiskey and a minimum of three years in a cask.

Tullamore Dew also produces a range of Premium malts and blends including the award-winning 12 Year-Old Special Reserve, best served neat with a square of 70% dark chocolate.

The Single Malts, 14 and 18 Year-Old, are delicious when paired with a hard sheep’s milk cheese like Cáis na Tire or Manchego with their hints of sweetness, caramel and even pear-like tones.

Tullamore Dew took home a Taste Master at The Irish Whiskey Masters and Gold at the International Wine & Spirits Competition. The Taste Master accolade is awarded to the single, highest-achieving entry in the entire Irish Whiskey Masters competition.

Tullamore Dew is also the second-largest-selling Irish whiskey brand globally. The signature liquid is a blend of three great whiskeys from Ireland.

The people at Tullamore Dew believe that what’s true of the liquid is also true of humanity and so aim to champion the power of blend in whiskey, culture and society.

Pearse 7 Year-Old Distillers Choice – ‘World’s Best Blended Irish Whiskey under 12 years old 2020’

The Pearse Lyons Distillery has produced a range of award-winning Irish whiskeys. One favourite, the Pearse 7 Year Distillers Choice, was named Category Winner of the ‘World’s Best Blended Irish Whiskey Under 12 Years Old’ by the World Whiskies Awards 2020.

The recognition of this award is confirmation that Pearse Lyons Distillery remains one of Ireland’s leading distilleries. Based in Dublin’s Liberties, an area famed for its brewing & distilling, The Pearse Lyons Distillery is a ‘one-of-a-kind’ visitor attraction located in the restored St James’ Church.

It also won Best Dublin Tourism Experience Under 100,000 Visitors in the 2019 Irish Tourism Industry Awards.

Pearse 7 Year-Old is a malt-forward, malt and grain whiskey blend-aged in a combination of former Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale Casks and Sherry barrels for seven to nine years.

Now available in stylish tubes, Pearse 7 Year-Old makes the perfect gift.

And Pearse Distillers Choice 7 Year-Old has won the World’s Best Blended Irish Whiskey Under 12 Years for the second year in a row.

Available to purchase nationwide from your local Comans Beverage Sales Representative or from Alltech.


Another Gold for Fercullen

Four IWSC Awards for Powerscourt Distillery’s Fercullen range of Irish whiskeys were presented at the recent annual International Wines & Spirits Competition.

Fercullen Whiskey was awarded another Gold Medal for its Fercullen 18 Year-Old Single Malt as well as a Silver Medal for its 14 Year-Old Malt this time at the IWSC awards.

Bronze Medals were also awarded for its 10 Year-Old Single Grain and 8 Year-Old Premium Blend whiskies.

Released by Master Distiller Noel Sweeney, Fercullen 18 Year-Old Single Malt has been matured in Bourbon barrels for over 18 years.

Tasting notes reveal Oak and Bourbon tones which marry to give plenty of depth and character while retaining exquisitely-balanced flavours.

Powerscourt Distillery re-opened for guided tours on the 19th of July. Only 30 minutes from Dublin, it nestles on the Powerscourt Estate & Gardens in Enniskerry, County Wicklow.

Lambay Irish Whiskey

Lambay Irish Whiskey is a portfolio of Irish whiskeys known for their unique Cognac-cask finish. Focused on craft and the art of blending through the expertise and partnership of Cognac House Camus, flagship brand Lambay Whiskey Small Batch Blend continues to drive the cocktail strategy for the brand to bartenders and home drinkers alike.

Lambay Irish Malt, launched last September, is the award-winner this year scooping four Golds in the Spirits category including the World Spirits Awards and Irish Whiskey Masters 2021.

It was the first Irish blended Single Malt with a Cognac cask finish on the market. Earlier this year and after huge consumer demand, LIWC released its first Single Malt Single Cask Strength to the public.

Cask release 4613 was limited to just 400 bottles, batch-numbered and signed by Master Blender Yonael Bernard. The next release of Single Malt Single Cask Strength Cask release 2545 is already pre-sold for October and only 60 bottles will be released in Ireland. Mainland Europe will receive the rest of this 409-bottle edition.

These casks have been laying on the island since 2018, absorbing the rich sea air and each cask has individual taste profiles and varies in ABV from 49-58%, making it a true collector’s item!






The Busker

Introducing the new Irish whiskey produced at the world-class Royal Oak Distillery in County Carlow, The Busker includes all four types of Irish whiskey (Single Grain, Single Pot Still, Single Malt and a Blend).

The Busker Blend – Triple Cask Triple Smooth – combines Grain with a high percentage of Malt and Pot whiskey.

Matured and finished in three different casks (Bourbon, Sherry and Marsala), this whiskey brings a new meaning to smoothness in Irish Whiskey.

The Busker Single Collection, represented by the three traditional Irish whiskeys (Single Grain, Single Pot Still and Single Malt) boasts an unmistakable taste profile with nuances ranging from Vanilla and Oak to rich spicy notes.

Proof of The Busker’s quality lies in its winning a Double Gold for The Busker Single Pot Still, Golds for The Busker Triple Cask Triple Smooth and The Busker Single Malt Irish Whiskey and a Silver medal for The Busker Single Grain at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition last July.

Moreover, it secured the highest rating (94 points) and ‘Best Buy’ among all Irish whiskey blends from Wine Enthusiast as well as other medals in LA Spirits Awards, World Whiskies Awards and Bartenders Brand Awards.

Distributed by Barry & Fitzwilliam.

Writers’ Tears

Writers’ Tears Premium Irish Whiskey is the drink of choice for some of the world’s most renowned artistic and literary talents.

Recent fans include Margaret Atwood, author of the adapted-for-TV cult hit The Handmaid’s Tale, American actor, writer and producer Stanley Tucci, Irish chart-topping and multi-platinum-selling pop-rock band Picture This along with Marta Kauffman (co-creator of Friends TV series), Katy Perry and JK Rowling to name but a few.

A marriage of inspiration and art, Writers’ Tears is inspired by the golden era of Irish Whiskey, pot still distillation and its deep, lasting bond with creative thinkers and artists that defined Irish culture in the 19th and early 20th Centuries.

Writers’ Tears is a critically-acclaimed, award-winning recreation of the fabled 19th Century whiskey – a distinctive marriage of aged Single Pot Still and aged Single Malt. A truly unique expression that’s embedded in history, it’s best enjoyed with a dash of inspiration and a thirst for curiosity.

Writers’ Tears is available in over 50 countries globally and is distributed in Ireland by Dalcassian Wines and Spirits.

Connacht Single Malt Irish Whiskey

 The Connacht Distillery has released Batch 1 of its Single Malt, the first whiskey to be distilled in Mayo in over 150 years.

August 17th, 2021 marked a significant milestone in the seven-year journey of the Connacht Distillery in Ballina, Co Mayo, as it released the first core expression of whiskey to be distilled at its own facility.

Following a €10 million investment by its founders, construction began on the site of the old Duffy’s bakery in 2015, converting it into a state-of-the-art craft distillery. The team started laying down whiskey in 2016. Earlier this year the distillery released First Cask, a single inaugural cask of Five Year-Old Single Malt as a celebration of the journey so far. The 800 collector edition bottles retailed at €150 and sold out within weeks.

From 2016 until now the Connacht Distillery team, led by Master Distiller Robert Cassell, has created a range of award-winning spirits namely Conncullin Irish Gin, StrawBoys vodka and poitín and sourced whiskey brands Ballyhoo and Spade & Bushel.

“What we’re trying to do in Irish whiskey is bring innovation that’s both forward-looking and a nod to the past” says Robert, well-known in the industry for his innovative approach to making spirits, “whether it’s different cask finishes or mash bills, the idea is to take a traditional element and put our own unique spin on it”.

After a long four-year wait the time has finally come for the team to release the very first core expression of Connacht Irish Whiskey. In doing so, the distillery has become one of the few in Ireland to produce a Single Malt product made entirely of its own spirit.

To support the gear-change in business it has appointed Bevella (Primeline Group) as its Irish distributor, hired a Dublin-based brand ambassador and is currently in the process of expanding the distilling team and bolstering production capabilities with new machinery.

Batch 1 of this Single Malt is crafted by the Atlantic using 100% malted Irish barley, double-distilled in bespoke copper pot stills (designed and produced in Canada to Robert’s particular specifications), then aged in ex-Bourbon casks and finished in ex-Oloroso sherry casks.

Connacht Single Malt Irish Whiskey (47% ABV) is available at with international distribution rolling out in the US, France and Germany soon.

Complete your Irish whiskey range with award-winning Slane Irish Whiskey

Slane Irish Whiskey is a multi-award-winning blend, triple-distilled for smoothness and triple-casked for character. Matured in a combination of American Virgin Oak, seasoned Bourbon and Oloroso Sherry casks, Slane is a smooth, complex & robust blend that’s rich in colour and full of flavour.

Its striking black bottle calls out its distinctive flavour and unconventional approach that embodies the trail-blazing spirit of Slane. It has received multiple awards since launch at local and international level including Best Irish Blended Whiskey (RRP of less than €60) at the 2019 Irish Whiskey Awards and most recently receiving the Gold Medal Irish Whiskey Masters from The Spirit Business 2021.

Its trail-blazing Distillery and Visitor Centre is on the grounds of the legendary Slane Castle.

Slane, distributed in Ireland by Edward Dillon & Co, can be enjoyed neat, in a cocktail, or on the rocks. #SlaneRocks

Clonakilty’s Galley Head

By the Atlantic Ocean, on the southwestern tip of Ireland, is the home of Clonakilty Distillery. The Scully family has farmed this coastal land for nine generations. Their mission, to create a whiskey utilising the best resources that nature has to offer: prime land, pristine water and salt sea air – the perfect ingredients for a state-of-the-art maritime distillery.

The distillery, which opened in 2019, is located at The Waterfront in the heart of Clonakilty town. It’s here that Clonakilty distils “the world’s best new make Single Pot Still”, an accolade received at last year’s World Whiskey Awards.

Clonakilty Distillery is quickly gaining a reputation as a producer of award-winning Premium spirits.

Part of the current portfolio, the Cask Finished Range of Clonakilty whiskeys includes the flagship Double Oak Finish which won ‘Best Irish Blend’ at the World Whiskeys Awards 2020.

This month Clonakilty will add to this portfolio with the introduction of ‘Galley Head’ Single Malt Irish Whiskey. Bottled at 40% ABV, this offers an affordable introduction to the Clonakilty range.

In addition, Minke Irish Gin, the newly-launched Minke Irish Vodka, Minke Sloe Gin as well as a range of limited-edition cask collaborations with US breweries are now all available to the trade.
Phone: 086 0897516




Samuel Gelston’s

Established in Belfast in the 1830s and purchased by Harry Neill in 1869, the Samuel Gelston’s brand has remained in the Neill family for five generations. Harry Neill’s great, great-grandson Johnny Neill now follows in Harry’s footsteps, growing the Samuel Gelston’s range to include innovative, quality Irish whiskeys with exceptional cask finishes and rare aged Single Malts.

The latest launch is a Samuel Gelston’s Blended Irish Whiskey, made from a blend of locally-sourced Irish malted barley and grain that’s triple-distilled for smoothness before being matured in the finest quality ex-Bourbon Oak casks. This combination of triple distillation with the finest ingredients and cask-ageing creates a smooth yet expressive whiskey that can be savoured neat, over ice or mixed into a long refreshing serve.

In addition to the Blended Irish Whiskey the range includes Samuel Gelston’s Single Malt, Single Pot Still, 5 Year-Old Single Malt, 10 Year-Old Single Malt, 15 Year-Old Single Malt and its 26 Year-Old Single Malt.

Cousins, Johnny & Sam Neill, descendants of Harry and Percival, also recently joined forces on the latest launch that marries Johnny’s Irish Whiskey with Sam’s Pinot Noir New Zealand Wine Casks.

Introducing Kilbeggan Black Irish Whiskey

The launch of 40% ABV Kilbeggan Black Irish Whiskey is a permanent addition to the Kilbeggan portfolio from Ireland’s oldest continuously-licensed distillery.

Established in 1757, Kilbeggan remains a true original Irish whiskey with a long and illustrious heritage. Kilbeggan Black is an ideal choice for the whiskey-lover that’s looking for more depth and character in taste.

Matured in ex-Bourbon casks and traditionally double-distilled for a rich yet distinct character, the new 40% ABV Premium expression is lightly peated for more depth, with a subtle yet delicate smoky finish. The whiskey invites you in, blending a comforting subtle sweetness with a hint of spiciness on the nose, marrying mellow notes on the palate with this distinct note of peat smoke.

“For those who enjoy the Kilbeggan Traditional, Kilbeggan Black provides an elevated taste experience refined through the addition of peated malt for more character whilst still retaining the smoothness that we associate with Irish Whiskey,” says Fabian Fischer, Global Marketing Manager for Irish Whiskey at Kilbeggan-owner Beam Suntory.






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