Irish Whiskey – still a star

Premiumisation has become a key driver of Irish whiskey sales both here at home and in other countries such as the US, Irish whiskey’s biggest market. Despite Lockdown, Irish whiskey remains a shining star in the international spirits firmament while here at home, as the nights prepare to draw in, we take a look at the growing consumer demand for premium Irish whiskeys.

Irish whiskey enjoyed an 11% fillip in exports to €727 million in 2019 compared to just €130 million way back in 2007 according to Bord Bia’s 2019 Export Performance & 2020 Prospects report.

And according to Bord Bia’s Spirits Marketing Strategy 2020-2022, “The share accounted for by the whiskey category has grown from just 18.5% in 2007 to 64.8% in 2018”. It adds that the lion’s share of future growth is still likely to be achieved in established markets and – particularly in the case of Irish whiskey – in the US.

Imports of Irish whiskey to the US grew from €37 million in 2007 to €384m in 2018, with Irish brands commanding a 6% share of the total US whiskey market.

Irish whiskey spearheaded the 8% growth in Irish spirits exports last year, up by over €75 million through sales of 11.4 million cases, double the volumes being sold in 2010, with the biggest export markets remaining those of the US and UK.

Indeed, the Irish Whiskey category has been a beneficiary of the desire to ‘trade up’ to high-end premium and super-premium products.

While North America has seen a substantial rise in Irish whiskey sales it’s those whiskeys at the higher end that are making the biggest waves, with the Distilled Spirits Council of the US reporting last year that the higher-priced Irish Whiskey categories are “on fire”. Since 2002 high-end premium and super premium Irish Whiskeys grew a staggering 1,106% and 3,385% respectively there.

“This is an exciting time for whiskey hailing from the Emerald Isle,” said Distilled Spirits Council Senior Public Relations Director Maggie Quinn in a statement last year, “The category is on fire. We’re experiencing a global whiskey renaissance and Irish Whiskey, with its triple-distilled soft, sweet and smooth flavour profile, is captivating US consumers. Further, it has a long and storied heritage as one of the first whiskeys and that’s attractive to Millennials who’re always seeking a backstory in their glass.”

Irish Whiskey’s smooth profile makes it particularly appealing to adult consumers who’re new to the whiskey category.


Innovation & Premium

Global commercial intelligence provider MarketLine points to significant declines in global stocks of aged spirits inventories as being among the reasons for the development of new styles of whiskey where age statements are less important and Irish whiskey producers are world leaders in adding value through grain blending and maturation with different woods.

Sales of premium and super premium Irish whiskeys have grown far more rapidly than for the category as a whole.

But Bord Bia warns that, “Beyond Europe and North America awareness of Ireland and the Irish whiskey category is generally low.

“Building awareness of the rich heritage and tradition of the Irish whiskey category in emerging markets such as East Asia and Latin America will be key to unlocking future growth opportunities.”

Premiumisation is therefore a key driver for the category’s sustained interest and innovation agrees IWSR Drinks Market Analysis, a leading authority on the global beverage alcohol market.

It recorded a 9% increase in case sales of premium and super premium Irish whiskey to 4.4 million cases in 2019.

And in 2019 alone IWSR tracked almost 30 new Irish whiskey brand lines that have entered the US market at a premium-or-above price band. As part of the trend towards premium offerings, Irish whiskey producers have played to both camps in also releasing products with age statements similar to those of Scotch, reaching up to 21 years in the barrel.

Though Irish represents only 2% of the total spirits volume in the US it’s one of its the fastest-growing spirits categories. Over the past five years Irish whiskey volume has increased at a 13.4% Compound Annual Growth Rate and IWSR forecasts that the category will continue to grow.

“We continue to track high growth numbers for brands like Jameson, Tullamore Dew, Redbreast, Teeling, Proper No Twelve and Slane whiskey in the US,” says Adam Rogers, North American Research Director at IWSR, “Interest in Irish whiskey has been led primarily by Jameson for decades but now the establishment of more distilleries in Ireland has contributed to an increase in not only Irish whiskies, but other categories like Irish gin as well.”

In 2010, just four distilleries produced and sold Irish whiskey. Today more than 30 do so. But this influx of new Irish distilleries and brand choices isn’t the only factor fuelling the category’s strong performance in the US, IWSR believes. Consumer excitement and appreciation for all whiskies remains strong. Led by the recent boom in US whiskey, this is a trend that’s also a significant contributor to the growth of Irish whiskey, it states.

According to figures in the IWSR’s US Beverage Alcohol Review database, Irish whiskey’s 8.6% volume growth in 2019 outpaces that of US whiskey, Canadian whisky and Scotch in the US.


Targeting domestic tourists

Naturally, here at home, Covid-19 will have taken its toll on tourism and thus Irish whiskey.

Last year over one million people visited Irish whiskey distilleries and brand homes but nearly nine in 10 of these were overseas tourists which has fallen over a cliff this year. So the visitor centres currently re-opening here must look within, to domestic ‘staycationers’ with Drinks Ireland|Irish Whiskey’s Head William Lavelle, stating that, “We will be actively targeting domestic Irish tourists once our visitor centres re-open”.

But the onslaught of Covid must be taking its toll on Irish whiskey sales here too.

“Consumption is down everywhere,” says William Lavelle, “What we’re seeing is the on-trade shut for long time and re-opening in a limited sense now. However off-trade sales are up – but not enough to reverse the decline.

“The off-trade has probably benefitted more established brands since the start of the restrictions possibly due to a level of discount, so some were selling well.

“Any brand launched within the last two or three years looks like it will have to start again in terms of brand story, at least that’s the feedback I’m getting from members to that effect.

“Supporting Irish exporters to re-boot their brands and regain market position should be a key priority for Government,” he added, “Funding ‘boots on the ground’ in key markets around the world has long been the key to Irish food and drinks export success and is now more vital than ever.”

Last year some 590,500 cases of Irish whiskey were sold here, up 1.5% on the 2018 figure according to IWSR which expects to see Category Annual Growth Volume of 0.5% between 2018 and 2024.

But premium and super premium case sales accounted for 49,500 cases, up 5% on 2018’s figure of 47,100 and IWSR expects a 1.6% CAGR between 2018 and 2024. So the future for premium and above Irish whiskey on the domestic market looks more than half-full.


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 would be the Pearse 7 Year Distillers Choice which 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 the Liberties, Dublin, an area famed for its brewing & distilling, The Pearse Lyons Distillery is a ‘one-of-a-kind’ visitor attraction located in the restored historic 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 is the perfect gift for a loved one.

Please contact your local Alltech or Comans representative.


Roe & Co

Roe & Co lives and breathes creative reinvention. Since inception Roe & Co has collaborated with bartenders and industry professionals delivering contemporary Irish whiskey that challenges the status quo. Following the brand’s launch in 2017, Roe & Co continued to innovate, launching two super premium releases, Roe & Co Curator’s Series 0.1 followed by a decadent Roe & Co Cask Strength in 2019.

Continuing its spark for reimagination the Roe & Co Distillery has re-opened its doors to visitors for the first time since March. Located in the buzzing Liberties district, Roe & Co has adapted its offering, creating an interactive experience with fun and flavour at its centre. The Cocktail Workshop Experience, suitable for whiskey buffs and cocktail enthusiasts alike, can accommodate up to six people and is the perfect way to reunite with friends.

Guests can also enjoy one of Roe & Co’s delicious World Class cocktails in the showstopping Power House Bar or in the brand new Cocktail Village, all while feasting on tasty bites created by local Irish foodies. The Roe & Co Cocktail Village will host everything from mini-cocktail masterclasses to whiskey tastings in upcycled shipping container pods.

Priced at €19.50 per person The Cocktail Workshop Experience can be booked on the website.



The Lambay Irish Whiskey team is dedicated to innovating and creating new ideas within the craft whiskey category.

Uncork the unique and embrace something truly innovative with Lambay Whiskey’s Malt Irish Whiskey, the fourth addition to the Lambay Whiskey portfolio.

Consisting of a minimum of three variants of high-quality Irish Single Malt distillates, it’s a delicate blend of both double- and triple-distilled Malt spirit, truly a unique elixir.

Created through a collaboration between Camus, the world’s leading family-owned Cognac producer and the Baring Family’s Revelstoke Trust, Lambay is a combination of centuries-old Irish whiskey-making expertise coupled with five generations of French Cognac-blending and maturation expertise.

Lambay Malt Whiskey is crafted under the watchful eye of Lambay’s Master of Maturation Yonael Bernard. All Single Malts within this blend are independently sourced, firstly bourbon barrel matured and then partially finished in hand-selected French Oak Cognac casks, the signature finish for all Lambay Whiskeys. Included in this blend are Lambay Single Malt casks that have been exposed to the sea air and maritime winds on Lambay.

Bottled at a higher ABV of 43% to the former bottlings within the portfolio (Lambay Small Batch Blend and Lambay Single Malt), Lambay Malt Whiskey is mahogany brown in colour, with gentle notes of floral, malt and ripe Banana while effusing exotic tones of Cardamom and Fig with a finish of long-lasting Malt and lingering sweetness with a hint of spice.

Before bottling, the island’s own Trinity Well water is added in the final flourish, to deliver this delicious, elegant Irish whiskey.

Non-Chill Filtered.


Grace O’Malley Whiskey

Grace O’Malley is committed to providing the off-trade with as many assets and support that it needs to draw in consumers both in store and online. The last few challenging months have proved how much we can engage with consumers and store staff alike online and we can successfully run staff education sessions, virtual tastings, cocktail-making classes and giveaway competitions across social media platforms.

Grace O’Malley received a Masters Award at the The Spirits Business – Irish Whiskey Masters Awards this year for its limited Rum cask-finished release.  This is unique as it’s a 46% Malt blend with whiskeys up to 10 years old finished in a Jamaican rum cask and back to a bourbon cask to allow further marrying of the whiskeys.

But there is a shortage of older whiskies coming out of Ireland when compared to our cousins in Scotland but Grace O’Malley is in the fortunate position of holding a mature cask bank of 10 to 21 year-old Irish whiskeys, providing the opportunity to bring real innovation, not just to younger stocks, but also to the super premium category.

Having older whiskeys in our stable allows the Grace O’Malley brand to create premium limited editions that both domestic and international customers are crying out for.

Exclusive limited releases are critical for building the reputation of the brand that has staying power and intends to make a mark in the industry.

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Muldoon Irish Whiskey Liqueur

Muldoon Irish Whiskey Liqueur by Waterford-based Anchor Spirits is a well-kept secret in parts of Ireland but much loved in Germany and some far-flung places around the globe.

With a string of international awards for taste and quality, this unique Irish spirit is a hugely versatile weapon in any bartender’s rack. It can be enjoyed on its own, as a shot, as a mixer or as a cocktail ingredient.

Added to that it’s Vegan friendly and gluten- and dairy-free and at 25% ABV it ticks many of the current trend boxes. It also makes for an indulgent liquid dessert. Made with genuine Irish whiskey and infused with toffee and hazelnut flavours, Muldoon can also be mixed with whiskey to make a longer drink.

We suggest a ratio of one part Muldoon to one part Whiskey.

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Egan’s Legacy Reserve III

Volume three of the Legacy Reserve Series by Egan’s Irish Whiskey is released this September. This exceptional single malt, hand-selected by the Egan family, has been aged in American bourbon casks and finished in French Cadillac AOC casks for 17 years.

Cadillac is a French Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée for a sweet white wine, made from Biturica vines on the hillsides of the Entre-Deux-Mers sub-region of Bordeux, taking its name from the town of Cadillac (not the car!).

The finish adds a beautiful Vanilla nose with hints of honey, Acacia, Honeysuckle, citrus and Apricot and a buttery mouthfeel, with baked Peaches, Pears and honeyed Apricots giving way to a nectar aftertaste.

Like its predecessors, Legacy Reserve III is limited to just 1,000 bottles worldwide. It’s non chill-filtered and bottled at 46% ABV and will be available at the end of September.

This limited release follows an impressive run from Egan’s Irish Whiskey as Centenary, a blend of meticulously selected Single Malt and Single Grain finished in XO Cognac casks of French Limousin Oak, won Double Gold at the Sip Awards 2020 as well as Gold Best in Class at the Whiskies of the World Awards 2020.

Egan’s Fortitude has also just won Irish Whiskey of the Year at the New York International Spirits Competition, the only Irish whiskey to receive a Double Gold at 96 points.

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