Vodka remains Ireland’s most popular spirit category which last year made up one-third of the 2.3 million case spirits market here through sales of over three-quarters-of-a-million cases in the year to June 2018, ahead of the 476,000-case whiskey market (with a 24.4% share of spirits).
“Some 748,250 cases of vodka were sold on the Irish market in 2017, down by just over a quarter from 10 years ago in 2007 when 1.09 million cases of vodka were sold,” points out William Lavelle, Head of the Irish Spirits Association, “A year later, in 2008, this figure had dropped to 1.05 million cases.”
The decrease in vodka sales in the intervening years has now been stablilised, he believes and we’re now seeing renewed interest in the vodka market from producers.
Apart from domestic brands being successfully introduced to the market, new imported brands are also coming on-stream over the last year or two which has led to some predicting that vodka will see sales increase again.
“It will be interesting to see if vodka reappears as a mainstay of cocktails,” he muses.
According to the experts, Premium brands drive any growth in vodka at present yet ‘mainstream’ brands remain the most popular. Some ‘old reliables’ have a quarter of the vodka market here – and now, just like whiskeys, there’s interest in sipping vodkas and locally-produced brands. Similarly, the various vodka brands need to be able to tell the consumer their story, how they’re made and their provenance, the producer’s story and their method of distillation.
Figures just released by the Irish Spirits Association show that vodaks from the UK predominate sales at 428,150 nine-litre cases compared to Irish-based vodka sales here of 105,550 cases and Swedish vodka sales of 88,800 cases.
Vodka’s on-trade appeal
James Wilson, a Research Analyst with Mintel, points out in his report, Vodka and Gin – Ireland, published last February, “Irish consumers are most likely to drink vodka and gin at a pub or bar or whilst they’re on holiday. Moreover, as visiting a pub or bar is one of the most popular activities Irish consumers take part in when taking a trip and with the number of domestic and overseas visitors to the island of Ireland increasing, this provides significant growth opportunities for vodka and gin brands in the on-trade.”
Donal Comeford, Head of Reserve Brands at Diageo Ireland, points out that, “Vodka is the powerhouse category for spirits with 30.9% of the market, so three in 10 people are going into a bar to get a vodka.
“Think about the rate at which consumers’ choices are changing and trending. Tequila is coming from a small base but vodka is an absolute beast.
“Historically, over the last decade vodka has been associated with a lively night out through vodka & energy drinks in the nightclubs etc but the consumer bias is now tending to move away from nightclubs and to stay in really nice bars all night instead,” he notes.
“There’s more atmosphere in bars so people are now tending to move away from the historic pattern.
“We, as an industry, need to adapt and move with that. So the whole craft vodka category will open up to that change and people will become proud of their brand call in vodka,” he believes, “We’re happy to see Sausage Tree coming on the scene, opening consumers’ eyes to Irish craft vodkas and making the consumer aware that there’s discernment to be had in vodka drinking.
“Price is not at the top of the decision hierarchy at all” he continues, “but having a high quality brand on offer is important. We, as a trade, need to embrace that and get that message across that we do have high quality vodka here. It’s an area that has been underserved.
“For example we’re seeing 17% growth in Super Premium vodka according to Nielsen MAT to June.”
In the US vodka & soda is a massive call – by far and away the biggest drink, says Donal, explaining that, “One of the reasons for this is that it’s seen as a more balanced choice in that it’s under 100 calories where a G&T can be up at 400 calories, so that’s what’s been driving those choices in the States where people have made lifestyle choices, perhaps having gone to the gym earlier in the day.”
Donal also sees a big move towards lower ABV drinking – the “NOLO” alcohol choice.
“We’re looking to move toward medium ABVs for vodka,” he told Drinks Industry Ireland.
Innovation encouraging consumers to reassess traditional attitudes to spirits
In its Global Trends 2018 report IWSR points out that, “Innovation from premium brands in more static categories such as vodka and rum is encouraging consumers to reassess traditional attitudes towards such products”.
But any volume increases at the higher-priced end of the global vodka market are being offset by heavy declines in the traditional nations of Russia and Eastern Europe.
And this pattern is set to continue in the coming years, says the Global Vodka Insights 2018 report from just-drinks and the IWSR.
This report also alludes to consumer behaviour patterns in drinking vodka as opposed to gin: “While gin drinkers are likely to want to explore the category and compare different products, vodka consumers tend to stick to one favourite, partly because they perceive little variation between different brands”.
The answer, the report suggests, could lie in a shift of focus, with vodka supplanting its reliance on versatility, neutrality and new flavours with a ‘new vodka’ that’s unafraid to talk about provenance, raw materials and heritage.
Sausage Tree Pure Irish Vodka lands in Irish trade
Following on from the phenomenal global success of the iconic Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin, Sausage Tree Pure Irish Vodka has already struck a chord with the drinks industry internationally.
Launched at Prowein last March, advance orders were instant, beginning with The Ukraine, France & Russia, with the rest quickly following suit.
Sausage Tree Pure Irish Vodka will soon join the world-class Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin in leading international markets including the US, the UK, Israel, Australia & across Europe.
The home market, however, is the priority for the brand & Ireland is the first market in which the Super-Premium vodka went live, distributed here by Dalcassian Wines & Spirits.
Every bottle of Sausage Tree is slow distilled by hand, carefully hand-bottled, sealed and labelled at The Shed Distillery.
Together with the continued ambitious international growth of Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin, the release of the first Shed Distillery ‘Premier Grand Cru’ Irish Whiskey & the new Visitor Experience, the new Sausage Tree Pure Irish Vodka will grow the workforce to more than 50 persons.
Ketel One Kitchen at Curraghmore
The Ketel One Kitchen at the inaugural All Together Now festival at Curraghmore House in County Waterford was the place to be during the August Bank Holiday Weekend.
A stellar lineup of top bartenders served up a selection of Bloody Mary’s, Espresso Martinis, Dutch Mules and classic Ketel and Sodas to festival-goers in the bright and vibrant kitchen space.
Attendees booked into immersive Bloody Mary cocktail masterclasses each afternoon and Espresso Martini cocktail masterclasses in the evenings, hosted by Ketel One Brand Ambassador Dave Beatty.
“Curraghmore House is a special place for a festival,” commented Dave, “We had such a great time hosting lots of interesting people who loved learning how to create cocktails while having fun with friends.”
For the third year in a row, Ketel One Vodka has been voted the #1 bestselling and #1 most trending vodka by bartenders working in the World’s 50 Best Bars.
This Super Premium quality vodka is steeped in history, boasting a distillery and family business heritage stretching back over 325 years, with 11 generations of the Nolet family proudly spearheading this success story from its base in Schiedam, Amsterdam.
Crystal Head Vodka
Crystal Head Vodka was conceived and founded by actor Dan Aykroyd and artist John Alexander in 2007. Due to the lack of additive-free vodka on the market, Dan Aykroyd decided to make the purest vodka possible.
John Alexander designed the bottle based on the pair’s shared fascination with the legend of the 13 Crystal Skulls (part of Mayan ritual and ceremony, they’re supposed to hold knowledge regarding the history of the human race and civilisation).
Manufactured and distilled at Rock Spirits Distillery in Newfoundland, Canada, using ‘Peaches and Cream’ corn, it’s distilled four times then reduced with the purest Newfoundland water to 40% ABV.
Filtered seven times (three through Herkimer diamonds – quartz crystals which have been ascribed healing properties such as “amplifying spirit energy”), Crystal Head does not use any additives — glycerol, citrus oil, or sugar — in production. It’s also certified kosher as well as gluten-free.
Crystal Head Aurora, filtered using activated charcoal, was released in 2015. This unique filtration lasts six hours to remove any impurities. The bottle is made by electrically charging powdered metal into the glass, giving a unique glow.
County Down couple Stuart and Barbara Hughes set up their small batch business back in 2010; they were the first small-batch spirits producer in Northern Ireland and much ahead of the craft spirits movement we have in Ireland today.
The couple’s cask-aged expression of RubyBlue vodka is rested in Irish whiskey casks for four months, crafting an indulgent unforgettable vodka with spicy Vanilla aromas and delicate whiskey notes.
It’s incredibly smooth and mellow, appealing to both vodka and whiskey connoisseurs.
Hughes Craft Distillery would be better known for its award-winning berry liqueurs in Blackcurrant, Cranberry, Wild Blueberry and Chilli Pepper varieties. Launching Ireland’s first Potato Vodka back in 2015 and collecting Gold at The Global Vodka Masters and Silver at The New York World Wine & Spirits Competition elevated the business in both home and export markets including Australia, UAE and Russia.
RubyBlue is an exceptionally smooth vodka with an appealing nose, subtle notes of Vanilla and crisp Apple. It’s creamy, well-rounded with a heartening earthiness and a long clean finish.
On ice with white lemonade garnished with green Apple & a sprig of fresh Thyme or enjoy it in a Dry Martini – or neat.
Belvedere, the world’s first luxury vodka, represents the pinnacle of Polish vodka-making tradition, born of rye, water and character in 1993 in Zyrardow, Poland.
It was the first in the world to generate a new standard for excellence in vodka and established the luxury vodka category.
Distilled exclusively from the finest Dankowskie Gold Rye and quadruple distilled to create the perfect balance of character and purity, Belvedere Vodka is the true expression of luxury vodka.
Over 600 years of Polish vodka-making tradition have brought us to today where Belvedere’s distinctive all-natural, additive-free character has been recognised internationally.
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Vodka from the Land of the Midnight Sun
Every Summer in Finland, the sun does not set for 72 days. Instead it shines on a land less ordinary creating Finlandia, a vodka less ordinary.
Golden Suomi barley and pure glacial spring water give this classic vodka a dry, light and smooth taste with a gentle aroma.
Finlandia also offers flavoured varieties including Finlandia Grapefruit where the nose-tingling coolness of a squeezed Grapefruit adds to the crispness of the vodka and is delicious to sip straight or as part of a cocktail.
Varieties available: Classic, Grapefruit, Cranberry and Lime, all distributed by Edward Dillon & Co.