Irish whiskey on-message

Premiumisation, heritage and craftsmanship help drive Irish whiskey's marketing message along globally and here at home the on-trade is responding by taking more notice of Irish whiskeys in their product repertoire. Our Industry Report examines Irish whiskey’s relationship with the on- and off-trade.

As this month’s Irish Whiskey Award-winners are announced, no one needs reminding that Irish whiskey is on a steep upward sales incline internationally with the fashionability of Irish whiskey continuing to grow worldwide.
Irish whiskey now accounts for more than one-third of all Irish beverage exports and this export category is anticipated to double to 12 million cases (144 million bottles) by 2020. Exports exceeded 8.7 million cases in 2016 (up from 2015’s figure of 7.8 million cases) meaning that overall sales of Irish whiskey in 2016 broke the 100 million-bottle barrier for the first time.
“Irish whiskey is proving to be star performer when it comes to exports from the broader Irish food and drink sector” stated the Head of the Irish Whiskey Association William Lavelle, “and is playing a leading role in delivering on the targets in Government’s FoodWise 2025 strategy, but we should not take this growth for granted. We’re calling on Government to ensure that the promotion of Irish whiskey and spirits is kept front and centre of international trade promotion efforts by Ministers and state agencies and that the proposed provisions of the draft Alcohol Bill relating to advertising and labelling are reviewed and amended to protect competition, innovation and investment across the whiskey and sprits industry.”



With sales of just under six million cases, the iconic Jameson brand is responsible for around two-thirds of all Irish whiskey exports.

According to IWSR figures, the top five markets for whiskey sales in 2016 were:

  1. US: 3.6 million cases
  2. Ireland: 521,000 cases
  3. France: 381,000 cases
  4. UK: 341,000 cases
  5.  South Africa: 335,000 cases


IWSR indicates that following the Jameson juggernaut are Tullamore Dew with 1.02 million cases, Bushmillls with 739,000 cases, Paddy on 194,660 cases, Powers on 101,240 cases, Kilbeggan (81,840 cases), 2 Gingers (39,000 cases), Redbreast (37,600 cases), Clontarf (31,100 cases) and Teeling (30,900 cases).

Last year whiskey exports earned €505 million.

The recent just-drinks/IWSR Global International Whisky Insights report states that Irish whiskey has outstripped its American, Japanese and Canadian cousins in growth terms recently, increasing sales volumes by 11.3% in 2016 – an acceleration of the 2011-16 CAGR of 8.8%.

It suggests that only supply constraints (in Japanese, Irish and American whisk(e)y) will provide any brake on potential future growth.

“The stratospheric growth of Irish whiskey has been largely driven by sector behemoth Jameson” states the report, “but its broader potential has attracted the attention of some of the industry’s biggest players, including Beam Suntory (Cooley), William Grant (Tullamore Dew), Brown-Forman (Slane Castle) and Cuervo (Bushmills).

“As a number of newcomers drive innovation in the Irish whiskey category, there are concerns among some in the industry that moving too far away from the template that has made it successful could risk the category losing its USP.”

In the UK, CGA Strategy Client Director Jonny Jones reports similar good news for Irish whiskey sales.

“Irish Whiskey is experiencing a revival in the GB on-trade,” he says, “And, although overall sales are lower than those of other Whisk(e)y sub-categories, at +8.2% year-on-year value sales growth, Irish is growing at a faster pace than its Scotch & American counterparts.

“There are three main drivers that can be attributed to this success. Firstly, serve innovation from the market-leading brand has opened the door for the category to move into new occasions and to attract a new consumer base. Activation of the ‘boilermaker’ & ‘with ginger’ serves has attracted a younger audience, a demographic that spends more time & money in the on-trade than any other.

“Secondly, the category is becoming increasingly premium – established brands have introduced high-end line extensions and several new premium brands have entered the market.

“And thirdly, as new suppliers have entered the mix they’ve helped to drive a renewed focus in the Irish subcategory as an integral part of their wider Whisk(e)y portfolios.

“This raft of new entrants presents consumers with more choice than ever before and has helped to generate a revived interest in the category. And outlets are also embracing this trend: the number of venues stocking two or more Irish Whiskies has grown by 13.2% in the last five years.

“We’re in the midst of an exciting period for Irish Whiskey and it looks set to expand further as innovative serves & new product development continue to widen the category’s appeal beyond its traditional consumer base.”



Irish market

After vodka, Irish whiskey is the next best seller in the Irish on-trade. It’s responsible for 25% of all spirits sales and was worth around €157.1 million in the year to last February according to Nielsen, up 1.3% on the 12 months to February 2016.

But domestic pricing remains an issue. In its annual report on the industry the Chairman and Chief Executive of Irish Distillers Pernod Ricard highlighted the growing disparity between the message and the model when he alluded to the home market for Irish whiskey.

“Despite the overall global success of our brands the domestic market continues to pose challenges,” stated Jean Christophe Coutures, “Ireland has the third-highest excise rates on spirits in Europe. It’s damaging to our reputation that an American tourist can buy a bottle of Jameson in the US for almost half the price of the same bottle in Ireland, the home of Irish whiskey.”



Double-distillled Kilbeggan


As you pass through Kilbeggan, keep going and towards the edge

of town a giant brick smokestack with ‘Whiskey’ down its side will command

your attention. It’s the home of the Kilbeggan Distillery established in 1757 and is the oldest licensed distillery in Ireland.

For 200 years, Kilbeggan was an unlikely success story as a small town in

the Irish countryside managed to produce a whiskey beloved the world over.

But by 1953 tough times had ground the gears of the distillery to a halt.

But the whiskey built the town, so the town fought to save the whiskey.

They couldn’t buy back the building, so the townspeople paid the distillery

licence year after year. And after three decades they

finally received the key to the building, and set out to restore it to its

former glory.

Today Kilbeggan’s waterwheel turns once more and its whiskey is ready to be shared with the

world. Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey is still made using traditional methods, with

all new premium packaging. Every label features a depiction of the town.


Benefits of double distillation

Distilling Kilbeggan just twice preserves more of the rich flavors of the whiskey, resulting in a more characterful flavour profile than other Irish whiskeys, which are predominantly triple-distilled.


Why Kilbeggan?

Kilbeggan, still at 40%, is a premium Irish whiskey that represents an entry into

the Kilbeggan Distilling Company portfolio.

As Irish whiskey experiences tremendous growth and the category

gets more crowded, Kilbeggan offers consumers an approachable,

smooth blended whiskey with a rich heritage rooted in the town of

Kilbeggan and Irish whiskey-making traditions.


Shelf guidelines

Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey should be merchandised

on-shelf in the Irish whiskey section to the left of

Jameson. It should be accompanied by a display push

on the floor during key Irish (St Patrick’s Day) and

whiskey holidays.

The Kilbeggan range is distributed by Barry & Fitzwilliam.


Introducing Kilbeggan Single Grain

Now at 43%, Kilbeggan Single Grain furthers the spirit of innovation

found within the Kilbeggan Distillery family of spirits.

The notion that “single grain” describes a whiskey made with

just one grain is a common misperception. Rather, the term

refers to whiskey made in a single location using malted

barley and at least one other grain. 94% of the mash bill for

Kilbeggan Single Grain is made of meticulously-sourced corn,

with the other 6% being malted barley.

Kilbeggan Single Grain is a sweet spirit.

After aging in ex-bourbon barrels, it’s finished in a marriage of

ex-bourbon and different fortified wine barrels, giving it a

smoothness that makes it ideal for cocktails as well as a

depth of flavour that allows it to be appreciated neat.


Why Kilbeggan Single Grain?

As Irish whiskey enjoys exponential category growth and the

whiskey industry as a whole increasingly shifts towards premium

offerings, Kilbeggan Single Grain is well-positioned to resonate

with consumers and bartenders alike.


Shelf guidelines

Kilbeggan Single Grain should be placed on shelves

alongside other premium Irish whiskeys. On-premise,

it should have prominent back bar placement.


Drink strategy

As a premium whiskey, Kilbeggan Single Grain possesses

Irish whiskey’s trademark versatility and smoothness

and thus is a great way to enhance classic cocktails

like the Whiskey Sour. It also has enough depth of flavor

to be enjoyed neat.




The Tyrconnell – not just a standard Irish whiskey

Now at 43%, The Tyrconnell came to be in 1762, created by the Watt family in Derry, Ireland. The Watts thought they could do better than the moonshiners and the other commercial distillers by making a superior whiskey.

The whiskey thrived and ultimately found its spiritual mate in a horse, a racehorse to be exact, known for its unequaled quality. In 1876 at the Irish National Stakes, ‘Tyrconnell’ triumphed against all odds and the legend of The Tyrconnell was born.

The Tyrconnell Whiskey became the dominant whiskey in Ireland and the biggest-selling whiskey in America preProhibition. But World War I took its toll and then Ireland was partitioned into the Republic and the North. Once Prohibition finally arrived, the distillery went dark and The Tyrconnell went dormant.

It was out, but not gone. Bowed, but not broken.

Decades later two enterprising young Irishmen came together in a pub to lament the loss of the great whiskey-makers of their grandfathers’ era. They decided to risk big, to bring back a certain double-distilled single malt in a world of triple-distilled blends. They knew they could make something special. It has built its reputation on its double-distillation and cask finishes, both relatively unique to Irish whiskey. Today, all efforts for The Tyrconnell will be focused on leading the premium growth within Irish whiskey, going against other premium malts for the sipping neat occasion.

The Tyrconnell is distributed by Barry & Fitzwilliam.





Determined to carve their own way, a few friends from Dublin and Wicklow founded Glendalough Distillery to revive Ireland’s lost heritage of great spirits distillation and create innovative, exciting brands.

Together, they created Ireland’s first craft distillery in Glendalough, harnessing 14 centuries of Irish spirit-making tradition sstretching back to monks who made the world’s first distilled spirit – poitín – as early as 584AD.

On every Glendalough Distillery bottle, the image of St Kevin represents the distillery’s embrace of this ancient heritage and the wildly independent Irish character.

The Glendalough Distillery range includes four whiskies: the Double Barrel Single Grain, the 7 and 13 Year-Old Single Malts and the limited edition Black Pitts Porter Barrel.

The Glendalough Double Barrel is a unique single grain Irish whiskey that’s been aged in both ex-bourbon and Oloroso sherry barrels. A youngish but smooth soft single grain, it’s a perfect, keenly-priced entry point for the whiskey novice.

The two Single Malts, meanwhile, are both matured in first-fill bourbon casks and cut to 46% using – appropriately – local Wicklow water and non-chill filtered.

As for the age declarations? For the 7 Year-Old, as ever it’s all about the man on their bottle: St Kevin.

The original plan for the 13 Year-Old was to release it as a 12-year-old, as is traditional, but it was matured an extra year in honour of rugby great Brian O’Driscoll, a shareholder in the company, who wore the No13 jersey for Ireland during his playing days.

Finally, the Black Pitts Porter Barrel is a 10 year-old single malt from Glendalough that’s been finished in the casks of the eponymous beer from Dublin’s Five Lamps Brewery.

Glendalough Distillery is exclusively distributed in Ireland by Findlater & Co.



Prizefight is bringing Whiskey & Pepp back!

Prizefight Whiskey and peppermint cordial was for years ordered in pubs across the country and would’ve been commonplace but now, unfortunately, it has faded from sight in most bars. So Prizefight Whiskey is partnering with America Village, a Galway-based maker of cocktail bitters and cordials, to release a special collaborative peppermint cordial that pairs perfectly with Prizefight.

Taking a nod from the classic Irish tradition of whiskey and pepp, this collaborative cordial was uniquely formulated to pair with Prizefight Irish Whiskey which is clean and crisp upfront, light and refreshing on the palate with a sweet – yet cooling – finish.

“I’m an avid fan of old drinks and bringing them back to life for people to try” said Paul Lambert, Beverage Director at The Blind Pig Speakeasy, “so when I heard Prizefight Whiskey were bringing back Whiskey & Pepp, I was thrilled. It was very popular when I was a new start behind the stick and should never have gone away, to be honest. It makes a wonderful digestif to finish-off an evening.”

The strong peppermint flavour compliments the fruit, floral and spice notes of Prizefight.

Prizefight is a collaborative Irish whiskey, distilled and aged in Ireland and finished in American Rye casks. The result is incredibly complex whiskey, a smooth and mellow spirit that packs a punch but never burns.



Irishman Founders Reserve

Distributed by Dalcassian Wines & Spirits, Irishman Founder’s Reserve is a unique take on the old Irish Pot Still Whiskey and is the original and signature blend created by founder Bernard Walsh.

It’s a blend of two styles, Single Malt and Single Pot Still. The proportions used are 70% Single Malt and 30% Single Pot Still. This is unusual in itself as it’s the only Irish blended whiskey to contain 100% whiskey distillates from the copper pot still and 0% Grain or Column still whiskey resulting in a much more flavoursome whiskey. The Founder’s Reserve is triple-distilled and matured in bourbon casks. The Gold Medal Winner at The International Spirits Challenge in London is one of the highest-rated Irish Whiskeys in Jim Murray’s Whiskey Bible with 93 points – “Quite a wonderful blend” – and awarded Gold at The Whiskey Masters as overall winner in The Irish Whiskey Category.



Writers Tears Copper Pot

Writers’ Tears is a unique vatting of Single Malt and Single Pot Still whiskeys. Distilled from 60% Pot Still and 40% Malt (No Grain) Writers’ Tears is triple-distilled, non-peated, matured and aged in American Oak bourbon casks. A gold Medal winner at the International Spirits Challenge in London and one of the highest-rated Irish Whiskeys in Jim Murrays Iconic Whiskey Bible: “Altogether a very unusual Irish Whiskey, a throwback to the last century where spiced Pure Pot Still whiskey was married with Floral Single Malt”.

It has also been added to Ian Buxton’s publication 101 Whiskeys to try before you die.  Writers’ Tears is distributed by Dalcassian Wines & Spirits.



Roe & Co launches sampling & gifting bar at T2

Roe & Co, the new premium Blended Irish Whiskey, hosts a sampling and gifting bar at T2 in Dublin airport throughout October and November.

This presents a unique opportunity for consumers to learn about this exciting new brand. In particular, visitors from the US will enjoy trying out and purchasing this new Irish whiskey, as Roe & Co is not yet available in the States. Travellers can also sample a signature Roe & Roots cocktail, featuring 25ml of Roe & Co, freshly pressed apple and pear juice, served in a glass of ice, topped with premium soda water and finished with a freshly cut slice of pear.

This new triple distilled premium Irish whiskey, which has won the double gold award for flavour at the San Francisco Spirit Awards.

Made from Irish malt and grain whiskies and aged in bourbon casks this addition to the Diageo portfolio of luxury spirits provides a base for a number of sesonal serves and will be enjoyed by whiskey enthusiasts around the world.

Check out @RoeandCoWhiskey on Instagram for inspiration.




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