Innovation & premiumisation driving Irish whiskey market

With overall domestic sales of Irish whiskey up 5% to over 548,000 cases, sales of premium Irish whiskey here grew by over 40% last year to nearly 60,000 cases. This indicates a move towards seeking quality, innovative premium product on the part of the consumer.

With demand for premium Irish whiskey ever-growing, distilleries here are responding in kind, producing ever-more innovative whiskeys for the ever-more curious consumer. What’s more, over the next year or two some of the newer Irish distilleries will be getting some of their more aged whiskeys to market which should further stimulate the demand for Irish whiskeys.

“Irish whiskey is being enjoyed by consumers of all ages across 140 markets globally,” observes William Lavelle, Head of the Irish Whiskey Association, “The ongoing innovation in the category coupled with an increased focus on the presentation of Irish whiskey as an exciting component in mixed drinks and cocktails is resulting in Irish whiskey being embraced by more diverse consumer segments, including younger drinkers.”

To match the increase in global demand for Irish whiskey, distillery numbers have quintupled from the original four here just a few short years ago.

Today, Irish whiskey’s worldwide demand clamours for something beyond the present 200 bottles per minute sold or 9.7 million cases a year – up 10.6% last year.

And another 26 distilleries have now reached the construction stage or are today at the planning stage.


Irish whiskey in Ireland

While domestic sales of whiskey account for less than 6% of total global sales, encouragingly, sales of whiskey were up 5.1% here last year to 548,250 nine-litre cases while sales in the Premium & Above segment saw growth of 40% to nearly 60,000 cases.

According to the latest report from the Irish Spirits Association, published last month, Irish whiskey is responsible for just under a quarter of all spirits sales here, with standard whiskeys showing volume growth of 2% to 489,500 cases. Irish whiskey enjoys 24.4% of the total spirits quotient sold in Ireland, up from 24.3% in the IWA’s first report last year.

Indeed over the last four years Irish whiskey has continued to grow sales here from 468,000 nine-litre cases in 2014 to 504,250 cases in 2015 to 521,750 cases in 2016 to 548,250 cases last year.

Commenting in IDL Pernod-Ricard’s annual report IDL Chairman and Chief Executive Conor McQuaid put the growth in sales of Irish whiskey here “in part due to increased interest in Irish whiskey tourism”.



Global sales of Irish whiskey between 2016 and 2017 grew 10.6% to 9.69 million cases “cementing Irish whiskey as the world’s fastest growing spirits category” according to the Irish Spirits Association which adds that Irish whiskey exports are on-target to exceed the 2020 target of 12 million cases previously set by the ISA.

The Association’s first-ever report last year claimed growth of 135% in premium Irish whiskeys over the five years to 2017.

Altogether, Premium, Super Premium and Ultra Premium Irish whiskeys were worth over €330 million in 2016.

Irish Distillers-Pernod Ricard’s premium spirits brands recorded strong net sales during its 2017/18 year with sales of Jameson up 9% while its prestige Irish whiskeys witnessed 23% growth, according to Conor McQuaid in IDL Pernod Ricard’s latest set of results published last June.

The Irish Whiskey Association naturally welcomes the ongoing premiumisation in the Irish whiskey category.

“Premium Irish whiskey products are proving increasingly attractive among discerning consumers around the globe and this in turn is delivering significant value-add for the Irish whiskey industry,” comments William Lavelle, “However, the greater trend toward premium whiskey products is intrinsically linked to increased consumer demands for authenticity, consumers who’re willing to pay a premium price to know where the product is made, by who and how. The back story is critical.

“The new wave of unique Irish whiskey distilleries opening across Ireland, most of which are focussing on producing premium brands, means Ireland is well-placed to benefit from this global consumer demand. This is also helping drive visitors to Irish whiskey distilleries and brand homes.

“IWSR figures for the Irish market indicate that sales of all premium (and above) Irish whiskey in Ireland in 2017 was 58,750 cases (705,000 bottles), up 40.7% on 2016. At this stage we have not been able to access accurate comparative data to show the global increase in premium sales in 2017.”

Nevertheless, in the six months from the beginning of this year to the end of June, we exported €273 million-worth of Irish whiskey, 6.5% up on the same period in 2017 when whiskey exports were worth €256.3 million.

Volumes were up too in H1 by 15%.

Our main export market, the US, grew its sales of Irish whiskey in both volume and value with the market now being worth €160 million on a volume up by 10% in H1 of 2018.

“The Irish Whiskey Association projects 2018 will be another year of solid and sustainable export growth for the Irish whiskey category,” commented William Lavelle, “The CSO half-year exports figures would confirm this.”



IDL launches new Affinity Brand Co Division

Irish Distillers has launched a new division, Affinity Brand Co which will build affinity for its portfolio of luxury and new brands in influential Irish venues. The Affinity Brand Co portfolio compromises of leading Irish whiskeys, Midleton Very Rare, Redbreast, Green Spot and Method and Madness.


A true masterpiece and the pinnacle of Irish whiskey, Midleton Very Rare is more than just a liquid, it’s a demonstration of craftsmanship at its finest. Midleton Very Rare was born from the rich distilling heritage of Midleton Distillery and is a whiskey held in the highest regard by industry influencers.


Ireland’s most-awarded whiskey and the largest selling Single Pot Still Whiskey in the world, Redbreast is the definitive expression of the traditional Irish spirit. Full of aroma and flavour, Redbreast is characterful, complex and lavishly generous.




A rare and much sought after delight, given only small quantities are bottled yearly, Green Spot purposefully marries heritage and history with contemporary design and a sense of discovery. ‘Painted with a different brush’ is a statement of Green Spot and the portfolio’s position in the category.


Innovation, ambition and collaboration are the heart of Method and Madness; a whiskey hatched from the minds of the Midleton masters and apprentices. Method and Madness is a brand for consumers who want to pursue a more interesting path.





Headed up by director Shane Davey, the Affinity Brand Co team includes Claire Henry, Senior Brand Manager, Natalia Lynch, Sales Manager and Ger Garland, Irish Whiskey Ambassador, as well as Conor Breen, Brand Manager, Michael Cowan, Brand Ambassador and mixologist Andrew Dickey. The Affinity Brand Co team will work directly with bartenders and specialist retailers to nurture new, established and traditional brands in the market.



Q&As with IDL’s Shane Davey



Tell us about the importance of gravitating consumers towards the Premium and Super Premium brands at IDL.

The standard spirits market is currently relatively flat in terms of volume sold YOY, whereas premium and super premium brands are in growth of up to 7%.

We hear from high-end outlets, both on- and off-trade, that the consumer is drinking less, but drinking better quality products.

There are several reasons for this and we believe it will continue.

We want to work with our customers to help them sell more premium and super-premium products and deliver on this trend.

At the same % margin, it’s a lot better for a bar to sell a gin for €8 than to sell one for €5.

With near full employment and the cost of doing business continuing to rise, we need to work with our customer to help them maximise profit.

The end customer may have the same number of drinks, but it is better for our on-trade customers to sell a higher-priced product.


Tell us about the new Prestige Whiskey division at IDL and how it will address the demand for Premium & Above.

We aren’t just a Prestige Whiskey Division, we’re the Affinity Brand Company and within our portfolio we look after the Irish Distillers’ Prestige Whiskey range.

The team will build affinity for Irish Distillers Pernod Ricard’s portfolio of luxury and interesting new brands.

We’ve established a dedicated accelerated influencer spirits and Champagne strategy centred on iconic advocacy and five-star outlets.

Our aim is to influence the influencers and we will do this by delivering training and bespoke education to the key bartenders and mixologists, led by Ger Garland.


What can you tell us about your team and their priorities in this endeavour?

The team consists of seven members including myself.

Natalia Lynch, Sales Manager, will work closely with the whole Irish Distiller’s business to grow overall sales and distribution of all our products.

We’re lucky that we have a great team in IDL with strong relationships in the trade and Natalia will nurture these relationships and build new ones to maximise the sales of our portfolio.

Ger Garland and his team, (Andrew Dickey and Michael Cowman), will educate the trade on our brands and train them on best practice.

They will also look for future trends and where we need to go to next to continue to meet our customers’ needs into the future.

Claire Henry and Conor Breen look after the marketing requirements of all our brands for the RoI market.

They work on a diverse range of products, at various stages of their life cycle, from mature brands that are consumer favourites such as Red Breast, to new brands such as Suze.

This is a tough job, but an enjoyable one, as some brands have over 130 years of history behind them and hopefully even longer ahead of them.

The team’s priorities are fairly simple; our aim is to influence the influencers by listening to them to find out what works for them.


Why should the on-trade be particularly cognisant of IDL’s ABC range?

Our Affinity Brand Collection has been designed with the needs of the on-trade customer in mind.

We looked at current market trends and hand-picked the right portfolio to meet these needs.

By working with us, we’ll help grow our customers’ profits and add real value and insights to their business.

We only win if our customers win and our customers only win if they’re loved by their customers and our end consumer.


Anything we should know about Prestige Brands range that has not been mentioned above?

The range we’re currently selling will change and evolve as the market changes.

We will listen to what the bartenders and leading accounts want and we’ll react to their needs.

By being part of Pernod Ricard, we’ve access to a brilliant rich portfolio of global brands that meet different regions’ needs and trends at any given time.

We’ll bring some of these into the Irish market when we believe the industry is looking for them.

We’ve no interest in bringing in brands for the sake of it, there must be a customer and consumer demand.





Tipperary Boutique Distillery

Tipperary Boutique Distillery was founded in March 2016 by Jennifer Nickerson, her Father Stuart Nickerson – an internationally-recognised Master Distiller – and her husband Liam Ahearn whose family have farmed the land at Ballindoney for five generations.

To date Tipperary has produced three premium Irish whiskey ‘expressions’ – carefully-selected mature Irish single malts which it has bottled itself. It has also released several single cask expressions finished in its own Rioja red wine and Port casks.

Work is in progress on the development of its own distillery in Tipperary to be located on the grounds of the nearby Dundrum House Hotel Golf & Leisure Resort, opening in 2019, making it a field-to-bottle operation.

“As I understand it, this will be the first whiskey grown, harvested and distilled in Tipperary in approximately 200 years,” said Jennifer, “The provenance of both the barley used to make our whiskey (coming from our own farm at Ballindoney) and now being distilled in the locality allows us to claim true terroir.

“In addition, we’ll be providing a unique tourist offering where people can come and visit our distillery whilst being given the option of staying on site in first class surroundings.”

Tourist projections for the Tipperary Boutique Distillery at Dundrum House Hotel Golf and Leisure Resort are more than 40,000 in the first year of operation.  A total of 15 new jobs in the areas of production, bottling and sales will be created directly by the Distillery in the locality.


Tipperary Boutique Distillery Whiskeys:

  • The Rising – an 11 year-old triple-distilled single malt which won an International Wine and Spirits Award. Just 1916 bottles of The Rising were produced in honour of Ireland’s Centenary of the Rising and all of this whiskey has sold out
  • Watershed – a non-aged single malt Irish whiskey won a Double Gold in the San Francisco World Spirits Awards
  • Knockmealdowns – a 10 year-old single malt Irish whiskey won a Gold in the LA International Spirits Competition.

Available in Ireland, Watershed and Knockmealdowns enjoy a brisk distribution in the US  and are also exported to China, the UK, Germany, Brussels and Austria.

In 2017 Tipperary Boutique Distillery laid down its first ‘new-make’ spirit, made with barley from its own land allowing it to reserve some spirit for private cask sales, details of which are contained at



Roe & Co

Launched in 2017, Roe & Co is a new entrant to the whiskey market but its heritage is deeply rooted in the 19th Century’s golden era of Irish whiskey.

Symbolising the incredible regeneration underway in its home in Dublin’s Liberties, it’s so named in honour of George Roe, the once world-famous whiskey-maker. His distillery, George Roe and Co, which extended over 17 acres on Thomas Street in Dublin, was once Ireland’s largest distillery.

As neighbours for hundreds of years, George Roe and Co and Guinness were the two biggest names at the heart of Dublin’s historic brewing and distilling quarter. Set to open in 2019, the new Roe & Co distillery will be located just a stone’s throw away from where the original distillery once stood.

A premium blended Irish whiskey that combines the signature smoothness of Irish whiskey with a remarkable depth of flavour, Roe & Co is made from the ­best hand-selected stocks of Irish malt and grain whiskies and aged in ­first-fill Bourbon casks.

It was born out of a partnership between Diageo Master Blender Caroline Martin and ­five hand-picked Irish-based bartenders, with the task of creating a unique blended Irish whiskey that would hold its own in cocktails.

In the true spirit of collaboration and endurance, this vastly experienced team trialled over 100 prototype blends before they created this expression of Irish whiskey.

For further information check out and @roeandcowhiskey on Instagram.


Bushmills Black Bush – a unique blend with unwavering character

For over 400 years, Bushmills Irish Whiskey has produced the finest blended and single malt whiskey at The Old Bushmills Distillery, Ireland’s oldest licensed whiskey distillery in the village of Bushmills, County Antrim.

Bushmills Black Bush is a prime example of a whiskey that specialises in a distinct and unique character, catering to whiskey enthusiasts and fans alike.

Black Bush Irish Whiskey combines a high amount of malt whiskey matured in former Oloroso sherry casks, with a sweet batch-distilled grain whiskey. This unique recipe means Black Bush has rich, fruity notes and a deeply intense character, balanced by an incredible smoothness.

To enjoy this versatile whiskey at its best, serve neat or in a classic cocktail such as an Old Fashioned to accentuate its distinctive flavour and smooth finish.

Recently, Black Bush collaborated with various independent-spirited and extraordinary Irish individuals to create a series of immersive Black Bush events in Dublin and Belfast.

The result was Black Bush Stories.

This series explored photography, leather-making and charcuterie, showcasing those who’ve made their mark and pioneered their craft with great success. They’re people who’ve taken risks, tried new options and succeeded to illustrate creativity and passion, all qualities that Bushmills possess when creating its exceptional whiskies including the smooth and intense Black Bush. There’s more to the story, keep an eye on

An authentic, straightforward whiskey that has stood the test of time, Bushmills continues to be ready and willing to make an indelible mark on the world of whiskey.


 Egan’s Irish Whiskey


Egan’s Irish Whiskey has added two new expressions to its growing portfolio in 2018. The limited-edition Legacy Reserve ups the ante on its award-winning predecessors, the 10-Year-Old Single Malt and Vintage Grain, which were successfully introduced to the US and Irish markets in 2015 and 2017 respectively.

Aged for 15 years in American Bourbon casks, Legacy Reserve is hand-selected by Maurice and Jonathan Egan, whose forefathers Patrick and Henry began the brand six generations ago.

Unmistakably Irish, this expression advances the category of true single malts with a complex flavour profile and long finish.

It boasts a characteristically spicy palate, pairing Toffee and Vanilla with fruits and citrus, full-bodied while hinting at Oaky dryness. Legacy Reserve is limited to 1,000 bottles worldwide and is bottled at 46% ABV. It‘s available now priced at €165 and comes in a refined-looking presentation box.

The second release for 2018 is the intriguing Egan’s Fortitude.

Matured exclusively in Pedro Ximénez casks this single malt celebrates the strength of character of Egan’s co-founder and passionate Irishman Henry J Egan.

Expect a heavy Sherry nose with honey, raisins and a hint of Marzipan. This is followed by a mouth full of complexity and a strong influence of mixed fruit. Egan’s Fortitude is non-chill-filtered and bottled at 46% ABV which helps it retain its true character.

For information on distribution contact Intrepid Spirits on (01) 547 1727.



Connemara whiskey

Inspired by Ireland’s ancient distilling traditions, Connemara’s smooth sweet malt taste and complex peat flavours make it a truly unique Irish whiskey.

Connemara is the most decorated Irish whiskey with a huge collection of Gold Medals and has been honoured as the “World’s Best Irish Single Malt”.

Connemara allows you to unearth the ‘peated pleasures of Ireland’ – an aroma that’s light and fruity yet distinctly smoky and peaty.

On the palate, it’s silky smooth with a honey-sweet start, malt and fruits giving way to the intense full-bodied peat.

Complex yet balanced with Vanilla Oak tones, the finish has golden honey notes followed by an extraordinary peat explosion spreading across the mouth and palate.

Connemara cocktail was created by one of Ireland’s leading mixologists Josko Babic of Nightmarket in Ranelagh:


Bog Warrior

35.5 ml Connemara

30 ml Tawny Port

20 ml Lemon juice

20 ml Sugar Syrup

3 dashes Angostura Orange Bitter

1 dash Angostura Bitter


Shake all ingredients with ice and strain in a rock glass, add cubed ice.

Garnish with Orange Slice.


Hyde Irish Whiskey

 Hyde is helping to revive the lost art of independent Irish whiskey ‘bonding’ through the ageing and blending of premium Irish whiskey sourced from only the very best Irish whiskey distilleries.

As independent Irish Whiskey bonders, Hyde carefully hand-selects whiskeys from several Irish distilleries which it then blends, matures and finishes to its own specification in a wide variety of specially-sourced Oak casks from all over the world.

Its motto is “It’s all about the wood” and Hyde Whiskey has seven different Single Malt, Single Grain and Blended Irish Whiskey expressions now, all featuring unique maturation journeys and finishes.

Hyde primarily finishes its whiskey in Sherry, Rum, Bourbon and Burgundy casks, maturing and finishing it in a bonded warehouse in Little Island, County Cork. But it’s also working on ageing Hyde in Port, Madeira, Cognac and IPA Beer casks.

Hyde also sources ‘new make’ whiskey, made to its own very strict specification from two of the best Irish distilleries. This new make whiskey spirit is also aged in its own casks in its bonded warehouse.

The time and effort that Hyde puts into sourcing vintage casks from around the world is what allows it to take a great Irish whiskey and make it taste even better. This is why it has won so many internationally-recognised world whiskey awards.

The Hyde family has been involved in the Irish drinks business for over 10 generations, since 1640 having been well-known bar owners at ‘Tinker’s Cross’ just outside Bandon in West Cork from 1640 to 1962. Here the Hydes would sell fine Irish whiskey and draught Murphy’s Stout straight from wooden Oak casks that they would tap with a wooden mallet and a brass tap.

Today the family continues that tradition and passion for the age-old craft of ‘bonding’ and purveying smooth Irish whiskey.

Conor Hyde is the first generation of Hydes not to own or be born in a pub in West Cork but he continues the Hyde reputation for bonding and purveying some of Ireland’s finest Irish whiskey.

Just like many of these other bonded whiskey brands that have originated independently, Hyde does not have its own whiskey distillery right now but it will invest in a distillery at some point in the future, should the opportunity present itself.





Nestled deep within the idyllic Boyne Valley on the legendary grounds of Slane Castle, Slane Distillery brings you a whiskey that bears our village’s iconic name.

Slane Irish Whiskey is aged using our signature ‘Tripled-Casked’ method.

This involves resting our grain and malt whiskies between three different cask types: Virgin Oak, Seasoned Oak and Oloroso Sherry.

These casks are then blended to create an exceptionally complex, smooth and robust Irish whiskey that can be enjoyed neat, on the rocks or in your best-selling cocktail.

For information on stock and visibility items for your outlet, contact your local Edward Dillon sales representative.

For Distillery tour bookings, visit



Conor McGregor launches Proper No12

Eire Born Spirits recently launched Proper No Twelve Irish Whiskey. Founded by Mixed Martial Arts Champion Conor McGregor, Chairman and majority owner of the company, the whiskey’s being launched in Ireland and the US initially, with further expansion in 2019.

For years, Conor McGregor developed the brand which became a longer and more complicated project than originally expected, so he turned to the world’s oldest whiskey distillery, located in Ireland, with a proven history of quality whiskey-making. He met Master Distiller David Elder and together they took painstaking measures to bring the whiskey to fruition.

“We created close to 100 blends and ultimately selected what we knew was the one and only proper whiskey blend,” said Conor McGregor.

Proper No Twelve is produced in an area known for its rich soil and pure spring water. It’s complex and sophisticated yet smooth and approachable with hints of Vanilla, Honey and toasted wood.

Named after the district of Dublin in which he grew up, Proper No Twelve Irish Whiskey is owned by his company Eire Born Spirits and Proximo has been named its global distribution partner. Visit to learn more and follow @ProperWhiskey.



Tullamore Dew

The earliest records of whiskey-making are found in Ireland. What’s less well-known is that the Irish also played a key role in the early development of rum in the Caribbean.

In the 16th and 17th Centuries over 50,000 emigrants left Ireland for the Caribbean. Over time, many would go on to settle in North America but their influence is still evident in the cultural blend that’s the Caribbean way of life today.

Many of the Irish immigrants worked as indentured servants on sugar plantations in Barbados. Folklore claims that some of them used their experience in distilling whiskey to help create the first true rums. No surprise, then, that rum went on to become the most popular spirit in the world

Today, Irish heritage is interwoven in the Caribbean culture, visible in street names and surnames from Jamaica to Montserrat – the latter even nicknamed the ‘Emerald Isle’, being the only country outside Ireland to observe a public holiday on St Patrick’s Day.

Inspired by this cultural blend of Irish heart and Caribbean soul, Tullamore Dew has created XO Caribbean Rum Cask Finish, our original triple-distilled, triple-cask matured, triple blend, with an additional finishing period in carefully-select barrels previously used to age Demerara Rum to impart their distinctive tropical fruit and warm spice flavours.



A Dublin whiskey for every occasion

Currently under construction The Dublin Liberties Distillery will be home to some of the most exciting Irish whiskeys launched in the last few years including The Dubliner, Dublin Liberties and the whiskey that bartenders worldwide are shouting about: The Dead Rabbit Irish Whiskey, the limited production super-premium expression launched earlier this year.

“Centuries ago, the Liberties was the beating heart of Irish whiskey, thanks to the passion and gritty determination of its people,” comments DLD’s Master Distiller Darryl McNally, “We share that same character at the DLD and our mission is to create Irish whiskeys that do too.”

He’ll oversee production at the distillery which is being constructed by The Dublin Liberties Whiskey Company, part of international drinks company Quintessential Brands Group. It also owns leading Irish cream company First Ireland Spirits – home to Feeney’s Irish Cream Liqueur – not to mention its unrivalled gin portfolio which includes some of the fastest-growing gins in the world including Opihr, Bloom and Greenall’s. The Dubliner’s Whiskey & Honeycomb Liqueur and the 10-Year-Old Single Malt complete a remarkable range. Made from a blend of grain and malt whiskeys, The Dubliner Irish Whiskey is fully aged in Bourbon casks, giving a perfectly-balanced flavour.

In Quintessential Brands Ireland’s premium whiskey portfolio The Dublin Liberties Irish Whiskey’s Oak Devil and Copper Alley are front and centre in select whiskey bars nationwide. A hand-crafted nod to the city’s unique distilling traditions, Oak Devil is an exceptional non-chill filtered 46% whiskey. Meanwhile, the 10 Year-Old single malt Copper Alley expression stands alone, with only 31 casks of what is truly a one-off whiskey.

To order The Dubliner Irish Whiskey, The Dublin Liberties Irish Whiskey and The Dead Rabbit Irish Whiskey, contact your local wholesaler or Lisa Doyle at Quintessential Brands Ireland on




Lambay Irish Whiskey is a portfolio of Irish whiskeys that brings a unique Cognac cask finish to the category. Created through a collaboration of Camus Cognacs and the Baring Revelstoke Trust, the whiskeys are inspired by the island of Lambay, a private wildlife sanctuary owned by the Baring Family since 1904. The portfolio includes Lambay Small Batch Blend, a blend of malted barley and grain whiskeys finished in French Oak Cognac casks and Lambay Single Malt which is aged and then finished in Cognac casks which have been stored on Lambay Island, adding unique maritime notes to the rich, Cognac finish.

The portfolio includes:

Lambay Irish Whiskey – Small Batch Blend, a hand-selected blend of malted barley and grain whiskey, triple-distilled and matured in Bourbon barrels with a pleasant Cognac cask finish. Lambay Island’s Trinity Well water has been used to craft our Irish whiskey, making this as unique as the island itself.

Lambay Irish Whiskey Single Malt – a deliciously smooth yet complex unpeated malt whiskey, triple distilled and finished in French Oak Cognac casks, with selected casks being exposed to the sea air and maritime winds on Lambay Island. The unique micro-climate on Lambay Island imparts subtle notes of salt, iodine and seaweed to this unique Irish Whiskey.

Contact Lambay Irish Whiskey Company. e-mail:



Tel: +353 (0) 1 237 4669.



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