Category Focus: Whiskey in the jar
The Irish whiskey industry is booming, with global sales set to break the 11 million case barrier for the first time this year. Here, we highlight the distilleries and brands that are cutting a dash
15 July 2019
Irish whiskey has undergone a renaissance in recent years. Once widely regarded as “an old man’s drink”, that is resolutely no longer the case – albeit that it still appeals to its traditional demographic!
Whiskey is right on trend, with new serving suggestions and cocktail recipes making it more accessible to a younger adult demographic, and famous fans from the world of rap, rock and pop cementing its reputation as the drink du jour.
This reputation is reflected in the tourism success that the crop of new and enhanced visitor centres has generated. In fact, the number of people that visited brewery and distillery visitor centres increased by 7.2%, from 2,590,215 million in 2017 to 2,778,500 million in 2018, according to new figures from the Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland (ABFI), the representative body for drinks manufacturers and distributors in Ireland. Since 2016, visitors have increased by 241,294, which is equivalent to 14%. There are now at least 24 such visitor centres in Ireland.
These figures indicate that the growing number of distilleries and breweries opening around the country is benefiting Ireland’s tourism offering, as these visitor centres increasingly become destinations in their own right. ABFI said it expects the number of visitors to increase again in 2019.
Specifically, within whiskey tourism, numbers skyrocketed in 2018, with 923,000 tourists visiting Irish whiskey distillery visitor centres across the country. This number is expected to grow again in 2019, reaching 1 million visitors for the first time ever, according to the Irish Whiskey Association (IWA) which is part of the ABFI.
“Over the past few years, Ireland’s drinks industry has grown significantly, with an influx of new players and products to the market,” said Patricia Callan, director of ABFI. “A knock-on effect of this growth has been the increase in brewery and distillery visitor centres, which many producers view as an additional revenue stream and an important way to showcase the quality, authenticity and heritage associated with their products and with Ireland’s drinks industry.
“Importantly, these visitor centres are located right across the country, from Donegal to Cork,” she added. “Many have become destinations in their own right in rural areas, as people come to see the story behind their favourite products, meaning the drinks industry is supporting the regional spread of tourism.”
2018 was another year of exceptional sales growth for Irish whiskey, with global sales exceeding 10.5 million cases, the IWA has reported. This marked the first time that Irish whiskey sales have broken the 10 million case barrier since before Prohibition! The Irish Central Statistics Office’s final export data for 2018 showed that €654 million* worth of Irish whiskey products was exported from the Republic of Ireland last year – a marked increase of 13%.
Global sales of Irish whiskey are now set to break the 11 million case barrier for the first time this year and it is set to remain the world’s fastest growing whiskey category for the foreseeable future.*
“Irish whiskey exports are booming and the number of tourists visiting our Irish whiskey distilleries across the country is similarly booming,” said William Lavelle, head of the IWA. “We don’t expect this interest in Irish whiskey to slow down any time soon,” he added.
In total, there are now 25 operational Irish whiskey distilleries across the island of Ireland, following the latest launch of the new Roe & Co Distillery at St. James Gates. There are also 17 Irish whiskey distillery visitor centres in all four corners of the country.
In a significant boon for the industry, Irish whiskey was officially awarded special status as a protected Geographical Indication (GI) by the EU earlier this year. This means that any product bearing the label must adhere to strict guidelines governing its blending, production, marketing and more – a move which will ultimately help to stamp out the spread of fake Irish whiskeys.
*(Source: IWA Market Assessment Report 2019)
The Dubliner Irish Whiskey has collaborated with Ireland’s leading craft brewers to create The Dubliner Whiskey Beer Cask Series, an exciting limitededition range, whereby the award-winning Irish whiskey is aged in beer casks, and craft beers in whiskey casks. This unique coming together of The Dubliner Irish Whiskey with likeminded, local craft breweries, is the brainchild of Dublin Liberties Distillery’s master distiller, Darryl McNally.
Available from the beginning of this month onwards at the Dublin Liberties Distillery, the limited-edition series will be launched in France and Australia in the coming months. For the first edition, The Dubliner Irish Whiskey partnered with fellow Dublin Liberties’ neighbour and independent Irish craft brewer, Rascals Brewing Company, to produce a cheeky coupling of Dubliner 3-year-old blend with Rascals Coffee Stout casks, making for a whiskey packed with personality.
The two brands joined forces, with The Dubliner Irish Whiskey providing Rascals with whiskey casks filled with its high quality, unfiltered and unpasteurised beer. After a few months of finishing, the beer was bottled, with the distillery taking the casks back and refilling them with The Dubliner Irish Whiskey. The end result: ‘Just Good Whiskey’.
Such was the success of the series that Rascals whiskey-finished Irish coffee stout sold out on release. Further collaborations are planned with Rascals and exciting new flavour profiles are already underway for 2020. The Dubliner Irish Whiskey is also exploring partnerships with global beer companies.
Further Dubliner Irish Whiskey collaborations launching this month include a partnership with O’Hara’s Irish Stout which resulted in a robust, creamy blend, while a collaboration with Five Lamps Brewery led to a punchy 3-year-old blend, matured in bourbon casks, then finished in Five Lamps Pale Ale casks.
Commenting on the collaborations, Cliodhna Barlow, global brand director, Irish Whiskey at the Dublin Liberties Distillery said Irish whiskey is experiencing global growth and attracting new consumers. “This new series from The Dubliner Irish Whiskey seeks to inject fun and excitement into whiskey,” said Barlow, “demonstrating the brand’s desire to experiment and create new whiskey flavours that drive wider appeal. Irish craft beer has many fans, and our hope is to capture some of this appeal. Not only have we partnered with breweries whose beer casks add a unique taste to our whiskey, but ones that have the same independent spirit as The Dubliner Irish Whiskey and a a straight-up attitude and down to earth appreciation of great-tasting brands.”
“This has been a really rewarding and exciting opportunity,” added Emma Devlin, Rascals co-founder. “The demand for authentic quality Irish whiskey and Irish craft beer is greater than ever before and working with The Dubliner Irish Whiskey is a perfect brand match. We are like-minded, want to innovate and engage with our customers. We respond to what excites them, just as much as what excites us.”
The Dubliner Irish Whiskey Beer Cask Series is priced at €36 RRP/700ml bottle.
Double whammy gold success
Dublin Liberties Distillery recently recorded an impressive result when its Dublin Liberties Copper Alley 10-year-old single malt won double gold at The International Spirits Challenge (ISC) 2019. This accolade follows on from many awards, including silver at the (ISC) in 2018 and a gold medal at the Irish Whiskey Masters.
Created by renowned master distiller at Dublin Liberties Distillery, Darryl McNally and his team, Copper Alley is a heavenly single malt Irish whiskey, matured for 10 years in bourbon barrels and finished in 30-year-old sweet oloroso sherry casks. It is one of a range of five luxury whiskeys which make up The Dublin Liberties range.
“We are delighted with this prestigious win at the International Spirits Challenge,” said Cliodhna Barlow, global brand director, Irish Whiskey on the double gold result. “To be honoured as a double gold winner by industry experts, is a wonderful endorsement of our Liberties range and this award is testament to the creativity, innovation and hard work of our team here at the Dublin Liberties Distillery,” she added.
Through their evocative names and intricate illustrations, each whiskey in the Dublin Liberties Series tells a legendary story from Dublin’s Liberties very colourful history in the 17th and 18th century.
“Innovation in the super premium plus segment is key to continuing the impressive growth Irish whiskey has witnessed,” said master distiller Darryl McNally, “and with The Dublin Liberties range, we’re embracing an experimental approach with unique finishes for our aged malts which are unlike anything else on the market. We’re incredibly proud of this win.”
Dublin Liberties Copper Alley is available at the Dublin Liberties Distillery, Molloys Liquor Stores, Dunnes and the Celtic Whiskey Shop and is priced at €60. For more information, follow @DublinLibertiesWhiskey on social media channels.
Aromatic full-flavoured choice
Lambay Whiskey, launched last year, is a new craft Irish whiskey with a cognac cask finish. Each bottle also contains water from Lambay Island’s own volcanic Trinity Well and the whiskey is finished in French oak cognac casks carried across the sea from the world-renowned cellars of leading cognac producer, Camus, France. It’s a unique craft Irish whiskey from a curious place.
When it comes to summer and being a little more exploratory with your whiskey, Lambay Whiskey has released a range of easy-going mixed drinks that can be enjoyed in your local bar or for the discerning home mixologist. One of these is the new Lambay Spiced Orange Ginger. An aromatic, fullflavoured drink that shows the best of the Lambay Small Batch Blend and was the winner of the brand’s blind tasting of signature serves. “A play off the standard ginger ale and whiskey long drink that is popular in Ireland, pairing the spiciness from the FeverTree Spiced Orange Ginger really compliments the finer notes of our cognac cask finish, releasing a refreshing and elegant taste,” was how Sabine Sheehan, senior brand manager at LIWC, described the new drink.
- 35ml Lambay Small Batch Blend
- Top Fever-Tree Spiced Orange Ginger Ale
- Orange zest
- Method: Pour whiskey into a highball glass filled with ice. Top with Fever-Tree Spiced Orange Ginger Ale and garnish with slice of orange or orange zest.
For further details on Lambay’s Summer libations, check out www.lambaywhiskey.com/lambay-drinks.
Layers of flavour
Egan’s Irish Whiskey has added a second release of the Legacy Reserve series to its growing portfolio. The limited-edition Egan’s Legacy Reserve II ups the ante on its wildly popular predecessor, the Legacy I. This installment is a 16-year-old single malt which has been aged in bourbon barrels and finished in Banyuls casks.
Banyuls, for the uninitiated, is a French appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) for a fortified wine made from old vines which are cultivated in terraces on the slopes of the Catalan Pyrenees in the Roussillon area of southeastern France. The finish adds an intriguing chocolate nose and a slight cassis aftertaste.
Legacy Reserve II is limited to 1,000 bottles worldwide and with the bulk of those heading stateside, Egan’s doesn’t expect it to be available here for long. It is non chill-filtered and bottled at 46% ABV, with an RRP of €170 and available now.
Following closely behind is Egan’s Centenary which commemorates 100 years since the passing of Henry Egan who was the company’s co-founder as well as a leading figure in the struggle for an independent Ireland.
Centenary will be Egan’s second release in a busy 2019 and is a blend of meticulously selected single malt and single grain. Together they have been finished in XO Cognac casks of French Limousin Oak to add further layers of flavour. Centenary is limited to 6,000 bottles worldwide and comes in a striking package which is sure to catch the eye of collectors and connoisseurs alike.
Egan’s Irish Whiskey is distributed by Intrepid Spirits through Celtic Whiskey Shop, Classic Drinks, Drinks Genius and MCM Spirits and is stocked at Celtic Whiskey Shop, James Fox, L. Mulligan Whiskey Shop and all leading independent retailers. For distribution enquiries, contact Intrepid Spirits on (01) 547 1727.
Life through a lens
The Sexton Single Malt Irish Whiskey sets out to awaken the senses with an inspiring photography exhibition in the Project Arts Centre, Dublin on Thursday, 18 July 2019. Part performance, part cultural reportage, part photo challenge, The Sexton ‘Own The Night’ Photography Exhibition invites visitors to witness the night unfolding across multiple cities.
The photography exhibition showcases talent from all over Ireland and beyond with photos that capture the spirit of the night, as the sun begins to set, documenting the world as shadows lengthen, offices close and cities come alive. Renowned Irish and international photographers will display their ‘Own the Night’ interpretations across multiple cities and landscapes. The work features a combination of dark and dusk with pieces that portray their visions of the night.
The Sexton has opened the event up to other photographers, both amateur and professional, to have their photos included in the exhibition through an online photo competition on TheSexton.ie. The mission is to demonstrate how they ‘Own The Night’ with their camera, to capture the essence of their city, or aspects of their city as night falls.
Inspired by the darkrooms used to develop print photographs, the exhibition will welcome guests into a sensory tasting experience of The Sexton Single Malt Irish Whiskey. Here, with their vision dimmed by the low lights, visitors’ senses will be heightened, allowing them to appreciate new levels of flavour brought to life by the sounds, scents and of course taste of The Sexton. In the gallery space, guests can view the eclectic photography collection while enjoying a selection of The Sexton cocktails.
The Sexton celebrates the restless — the forward-thinking visionaries that maintain the drive to forgo the ordinary and create the unexpected. The namesake of The Sexton was a custodian of sacred objects; the one who prepared the grave and the last person to see people; body and soul, before they were laid to rest. As such, The Sexton whiskey has a different perspective on life. And, as a unique single malt distilled in copper and aged in sherry oak casks, it is perfect for mixing cocktails. The Sexton challenges people to live a life worth living; to take control of the direction of their days, and to ‘Own The Night’.
How to enter: Photographers who would like to enter the competition can upload photos to www.TheSexton.ie.
How to attend: Those who would like to attend can purchase tickets via EventBrite. The Sexton is stocked in highend bars, restaurants and lounges as well as fine wine and spirits shops for a suggested retail price of €40.
The art of whiskey
The inspiration for Writers’ Tears Double Oak was sparked when the brand’s team first collaborated with the Legaret Family and Allary Cooperage in France for its Writers’ Tears Copper Pot Deau XO Cognac Cask Finish.
The complex flavours of summer fruits and chocolate undertones from the cognac cask led to Writers’ Tears newest creation – Writers’ Tears Double Oak. This latest expression showcases the unique attributes that this partnership with the Legaret family brings to Writers’ Tears award-winning whiskey.
Writers’ Tears Double Oak is created using a unique combination of two casks, American oak casks from Kentucky and French oak cognac casks from France to perfectly finish a unique marriage of aged Single Malt and Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey, proudly called Writers’ Tears Double Oak.
The philosophy behind Writers Tears Double Oak can be pithily summed up thus: ‘Triple distilled, double oak, one great story. Some write, some paint, we make whiskey!’
Historic release confirmed for 2019
Intrigue is building in the international drinks world following confirmation that The Shed Distillery of PJ Rigney will release its firstever ‘Premier Gran Cru’ Whiskey before the end of this year.
It’s over a century since whiskey has been distilled in Connacht and although The Shed Whiskey officially came of age in December 2017, distillery founder PJ Rigney and head distiller Brian Taft put it back into hibernation only to be released when “perfect”.
The first ever cask is reported to be valued at €100,000 and has already got the thumbs up from the globally-renowned Dead Rabbit Duo, drinks trade bodies and the people of Drumshanbo, who had a small taster as it came of age in 2017.
A date for the release has not yet been announced… watch this space!