The rise and rise of Irish whiskey

Irish whiskey was the fastest-growing spirits category globally between 2009 and 2014, recording a Category Annual Growth Rate of 10.5%. As it continues on its path to greater worldwide success we also take a look at the growth in demand for Irish whiskey here at home and what’s being done to highlight and protect the sector.

A number of factors can take the credit for the inexorable rise of Irish whiskey sales around the world, among them its significant sales in the US and the growing attraction of Irish whiskey with the Millennial generation seeking something ‘new’, something ‘unique’ and something ‘authentic’.

Last year, global sales of Irish whiskey topped 7.5 million cases, up 6% on the 2014 figure.

According to IWSR, the US remains the top country in the world for volume consumption of Irish which increased 19% last year.

So the US out-drinks the indigenous Irish consumer living in the very home of Irish whiskey production. This is not surprising given the extremely high level of excise levied on Irish whiskey here.

“Excise is a regressive tax on tourism, hospitality, regional development and especially on the consumer,” points out the Chairman of the Irish Whiskey Association Bernard Walsh, “Recent tax increases have put a strain on the Irish whiskey industry. Currently the State receives €16.71 or 65.2% from a bottle of Irish whiskey costing €25.64.

“These price increases now threaten the stability and continued growth of the industry while also putting industry jobs at risk,” he told Drinks Industry Ireland, “We cannot legitimately continue to develop Irish whiskey production and tourism, when despite whiskey being produced in Ireland, Ireland is one of the most expensive places to buy the product. The €24.83 tax take on a one litre bottle of Irish Whiskey in Ireland is almost as much as the total price of the same bottle in New York.”

The US now accounts for some 45% of Irish whiskey exports according to Miriam Mooney, Head of the Irish Whiskey Association, who puts a value of €410 million on global exports.

Ireland takes a lowly second place in the volume stakes while France takes up third position.

Between 2011 and 2015 global consumption of Irish whiskey grew 37.5% and it has enjoyed a quadrupling of growth over the last decade according to the Irish Ambassador to the UK, Dan Mulhall, speaking at an event to mark St Patrick’s Day there earlier this year.

And according to IWSR forecasts Irish whiskey is likely to rise another 3.9% between 2015 and 2020, “largely through its ever-increasing popularity in the US”.

IWSR adds that France and Germany are also showing rising sales and this is set to be the pattern there over the next four years.


Whiskey cocktails

Mixologists too are using the growing variety of Irish whiskies to introduce subtle new flavours to their cocktail selection and Irish whiskey cocktails as a category are becoming a more prominent offering in the on-trade, thus promoting Irish whiskey as a more sociable product than simply an off-trade tipple.


Home market

Nielsen valued the home market for Irish whiskey at €229.3 million MAT to August 2016, up 2.4%. On-trade sales were up 3.8% in value to €129.5 million and by 2.7% in volume while off-trade sales showed a 0.7% increase in value to €99.8 million on a 1.8% drop in volumes, suggesting that consumers visiting off-licences might be trading up.

“In the on-trade however, we can see that Whiskey is growing value ahead of Total Spirits and that Irish Whiskey is driving this,” comments Nielsen, “Irish whiskey is also driving total volume growth faster than total whiskey in the on-trade”.

Irish whiskey represents around 80% of the ‘total whiskey’ category here and at €281.4 million that total whiskey market is growing at a rate of 2.4% (representing 28% of all RoI spend on spirits).

However while total whiskey values rose by 2.4% MAT to August, volumes actually fell by 0.5%, notes Nielsen.

And while the on-trade is responsible for 55% of total whiskey sales, this is lower than the on-trade’s share of total spirits sales at 62%.



Protecting Irish whiskey

Irish whiskey has become so popular now that it’s in danger from imitators around the world. So the IWA and the government have joined forces to provide protection for it.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Mr Michael Creed TD joined the Irish Whiskey Association in launching its ‘Protect Irish Whiskey Campaign’ recently.

The campaign aims to address the international sale of products that are wrongly advertised, packaged, displayed or named in a way that makes them appear to be Irish Whiskey.

Irish Whiskey must be distilled and matured in wooden casks on the island of Ireland for at least three years and the campaign is directed to Irish Whiskey producers, distributors and all who value Irish Whiskey.

It asks them to highlight any potentially misleading products to the Irish Whiskey Association so that action can be taken.



Irish Whiskey Awards

This month, the Irish Whiskey Awards took place in the Tullamore Dew Distillery in Tullamore on October 20th. It was the fourth year for the event which last year saw some 20 awards given including Irish Whiskey Bar of the Year, won by Dick Macks in Dingle.



Connemara Single Malt


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 ‘Worlds Best Irish Single Malt’. Connemara allows you to unearth the Peated Pleasures of Ireland and it’s distributed by Barry & Fitzwilliam.




Kilbeggan whiskey

Distributed by Barry & Fizwilliam, Kilbeggan is a unique Irish whiskey. Like most Irish people, Kilbeggan is easygoing and approachable, but with its own distinctive style. The finest grain and malt whiskeys are blended together for a smooth, sweet taste and lovely malt finish, a characteristic of its pot still that’s over 180 years old and still at the heart of Kilbeggan Irish whiskey.








Kilbeggan 8 Year-Old Single Grain


From the award winning Kilbeggan Irish whiskey family comes the older cousin of its original blend. Kilbeggan 8 Year-Old Single Grain is completely unique as Ireland’s only aged Single Grain Irish whiskey. This premium expression is soft and sweet with its main ingredient being corn rather than barley. It’s matured for eight years in ex-bourbon casks in the 250 year-old warehouses at the Kilbeggan distillery. This ‘one of a kind’ whiskey gives a rare glimpse into the wonderfully smooth style of grain whiskey and demonstrates the craft and heritage that goes into producing all Kilbeggan whiskeys, also distributed by Barry & Fitzwilliam.





Tyrconnel Single Malt

Tyrconnell Standard tube and bottle

Tyrconnell Single Malt Irish whiskey is an historic Irish whiskey brand from the 1900s, named after a horse that won a legendary race at odds of 100 to 1. Made from 100% malted barley in traditional copper pot stills Tyrconnell, from Barry & Fitzwilliam, has a beautiful fresh, fruity bouquet with a smooth sweet taste and a delicate dry finish.







Jameson’s Whiskey Makers Series


A brand new range of Jameson whiskeys – The Whiskey Makers Series – sits within the refreshed family and comprises three whiskeys that celebrate the people behind Jameson and their craft.

Created collaboratively by Jameson Head Distiller Brian Nation, Head Cooper Ger Buckley and Head Blender Billy Leighton, the range gives Midleton’s craftspeople a unique opportunity to shine a light on their individual areas of expertise. The Whiskey Makers Series is set to deepen consumers’ understanding of Irish whiskey production through the exploration of three key tools after which the products are named: The Distiller’s Safe, The Cooper’s Croze and The Blender’s Dog.


The Distiller’s Safe celebrates the role of Jameson’s Head Distiller Brian Nation and is a true showcase of the original copper pot still distillate. A purist of whiskey-making, Brian explores the influence of the copper on the new-make spirit using a maturation process that skilfully preserves the qualities of the original distillate, allowing the flavours developed in the pot still to take centre-stage. Brian’s tool of choice – the spirit safe – allows him to fine-tune the whiskey’s style at any point during the distillation process and the resulting blended whisky carries distinct sweetness from barley sugar and gentle notes of apricot, cinnamon and melon. A smooth, light whiskey with a luminous, zesty finish.



The Cooper’s Croze showcases the role of Jameson’s Head Cooper Ger Buckly and explores the influence that maturation in casks has on whiskey. A fifth generation cooper, Ger has a deep relationship with wood and is tasked with selecting, repairing and maintaining Midleton’s diverse and treasured barrels. Ger’s prized possession – a croze – passed down through his family, is used to make the groove where the head of the cask is positioned. The resulting blended whiskey is matured in virgin American oak barrels, seasoned bourbon barrels and Spanish oak casks, a combination that delivers vanilla sweetness, rich fruit flavours and a balance of floral and spice notes.









The Blender’s Dog celebrates the role of Jameson Head Blender Billy Leighton, a tribute to the fine art of blending. A master at matching whiskeys across ages and characters, Billy’s tasked with uniting the crafts supplied by distiller and cooper to create harmonious, perfectly balanced whiskeys. Billy’s ‘go-to’ instrument – a ‘dog’ – is used to collect whiskey samples allowing Billy to bring together complementary spirits from Midleton’s extensive range of maturing stock. The Blender’s Dog is a perfect balance of spirit, wood and time; a rich, rounded whiskey with butterscotch sweetness, spices, tannins and an exceptionally long finish.












Tullamore publican honours father’s wishes through Hugh lynch’s Irish Whiskey

Hugh Lynch’s Irish Whiskey was officially launched in Hugh Lynch’s Bar, Tullamore, recently.

Hugh Lynch’s Bar – a societal landmark in Tullamore since 1971 – is renowned for its varied array of Irish whiskeys, stocking over 100 different brands behind its counter on Kilbride Street, Tullamore.

The proprietors – a father-and-son team of Hugh and Emmet Lynch – decided to harness this penchant for the drink by developing their own brand and bottling it under the pub’s own label back in 2012.

West Cork Distillers in Skibbereen, County Cork, readily agreed to produce the limited edition drink and helped with the selection of the blend.

Sadly, Hugh passed away earlier this year and Emmet decided to dedicate the whiskey to the much-loved patriarch’s memory, placing his image on the label.

Hugh Lynch’s Irish Whiskey is made from a blend of grain whiskey, aged in Kentucky Bourbon casks and malt whiskey aged in Oloroso Sherry casks. The resultant flavor is both approachable and gentle – qualities poignantly reminiscent of the man after which it is named.

It’s a limited run of 1,000 individually numbered bottles and is available online at and of course is also sold in the Bar.


Emmet Lynch with Hugh Lynch’s Irish Whiskey.

Emmet Lynch with Hugh Lynch’s Irish Whiskey.


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