Christmas Drinks: Classic Reception

In recent times, there has been an explosion of quality new drinks brands, amongst the craft beer, gin and whiskey sectors to name just a few. When consumers visit local stores, they expect staff to be well-versed in these new developments and able to offer a tempting selection. Fortunately, our Christmas drinks feature offers a handy, at-a-glance guide to the brands that should be gracing your shelves during the all-important festive season, writes Gillian Hamill…


Brand Central

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14 November 2017

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Party season is about to kick off in earnest, and it’s a time that shoppers throw caution to the wind and stock up on anything and everything they think the drinks cabinet might need for unexpected visitors, last-minute gifts and impromptu parties, not to mention Christmas day, new year’s eve and everything in between.  What that means for retailers is a bumper season, and while alcohol sales saw a decline in total sales volume in 2014*, the take-home market has become crowded with craft and local beers, an ever-growing choice of wine and spirits as well as the more novel innovations like pre-mixed cocktails and other novelty drinks.

What this means is, as well as being almost guaranteed a sales spike, retailers must be more aware than ever of the latest products on the market so as to remain competitive. With that in mind, this month in ShelfLife we’re delving into what’s on offer this Christmas season, to bring readers a comprehensive list of the must-have alcoholic drinks for all those parties.



Uncover the possibilities of the night

Absolut Uncover continues the brand's traditionn of innovative and memorable bottle designWith creativity always at the core of the brand’s purpose to drive progress and inspire change, Absolut is proud to present its latest limited edition bottle, Absolut Uncover. The bottle features an interactive design that allows consumers to unwrap it, just like they would an actual gift. Inspired by the shimmer of the night sky and the endless possibilities of the night, the bottle is sure to add excitement to any party or celebration.

Absolut Uncover follows the brand’s creative tradition of introducing end of year limited edition bottles featuring innovative and eye-catching designs. This bottle offers a unique opening ritual as its coat can be unwrapped to reveal a special limited edition bottle hidden beneath. The coat’s design draws inspiration from the glimmer of a night sky.

The bottle underneath the sleeve features a beautiful design that has been printed on the iconic transparent bottle. This is one of two different design expressions of the Absolut Uncover limited edition bottle. Absolut has created two executions of this bottle to offer a variety for different markets.

Absolut has also created four signature drinks inspired by the launch of this limited edition bottle. The drinks are inspired by the different possibilities the night has in store and include unexpected ingredients.

Absolut Uncover limited edition will feature approximately 2.8 million bottles, which will be distributed world-wide in October 2017.

For more information, check out and follow Absolut on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.

Tea-ing up a new combination

The run-up to Christmas just got even more exciting as Blackwater Distillery is about to team up with the nation’s favourite tea, Barry’s Tea, to bring a limited edition Blackwater Barry’s Tea Irish Gin to the market.

The ground-breaking combination of the family-owned tea business, which has been a mainstay of Irish homes for over 100 years, and the Waterford-based gin distillery, sees a limited number of bottles of the new product being available from this month. This festive gin uses Barry’s Tea Classic Blend, Sicilian lemons, sweet Spanish oranges, juniper berries and cinnamon.

The Blackwater Distillery is known for producing everything by hand, and creating the Blackwater No.5 Gin, which recently won gold at the International Wine & Spirit Competition in London. In addition, Blackwater Distillery has been short-listed for the prestigious IWSC International Gin Distillery of the Year award.  Indeed awards are at the core of Barry’s Tea heritage, too. In 1934, Anthony Barry was awarded the Empire Cup for tea blending, confirming his expertise in the tea trade. This tradition of quality without compromise continues to this day.

Blackwater Barry’s Tea Gin is a globe-spanning, limited edition gin that at the same time is unmistakably Irish. It will be available in the Republic of Ireland from Tindal Wines and in Northern Ireland from LA Drinks this November.

The write stuff

Distributed by Dalcassian Wines & Spirits, Writers’ Tears Copper Pot is a unique take on the old Irish pot still whiskey and it is taking the world by storm. International fans include Katy Perry – who shared a snap of her drinking the Irish whiskey on her Instagram story earlier this year – and Marta Kauffman, co-creator of legendary sitcom Friends – who has a bottle in her office, no doubt for literary inspiration.

The ever-popular, award-winning Writers’ Tears whiskey is an impressive blend of aged Single Pot Still and Single Malt whiskey. The term ‘Copper Pot’ on the label is an honour to the age-old craft of whiskey production in Ireland. Each bottle of Writers’ Tears has gracefully passed through the copper pots to become the remarkable high-quality craft product that is enjoyed today.

Writers’ Tears Copper Pot is triple-distilled, non-peated and matured and aged in American Oak bourbon casks. This whiskey is gently spiced with a burst of ginger and butterscotch alongside flashes of apple and vanilla over background notes of toasted oak. Writers’ Tears Copper Pot can be enjoyed neat, with a splash of water or mixed into a favourite whiskey cocktail.

Gifting options

This Christmas, why not give the gift of great whiskey. The Writers’ Tears Copper Pot whiskey range includes three fantastic gift options – a single bottle whiskey presentation pack, a glasspack and a mini book.

  • Writers’ Tears Copper Pot (RRP: €45) is packaged in a beautifully finished, elegant carton with stylised teardrop design.
  • The Writers’ Tears Copper Pot Glasspack (RRP: €45) includes two teardrop branded whiskey tumblers and a 700ml bottle of Writers’ Tears Copper Pot.
  • The Writers’ Tears Copper Pot mini gift book (RRP: €20) is a beautifully presented unique gift in the style of a book, complete with secret compartment containing three miniature (50ml) whiskeys. Writers’ Tears Copper Pot is stocked by all good retailers, including Supervalu, O’Brien’s, Dunnes Stores, Celtic Whiskey Shop and many more.

Reserve that deserves praise

Distributed by Dalcassian Wines & Spirits, The Irishman Founder’s Reserve is a unique creation inspired by whiskey makers of bygone Ireland, where Pot Still and Malt Whiskeys were married to create a super-premium blend.

The Founder’s Reserve is the original and signature blend created by founder Bernard Walsh, using 70% Single Malt and 30% Single Pot Still.

This is unusual in itself, as Walsh Whiskey is the only creator of Irish blended whiskey to contain 100% whiskey distillates from the copper pot still and 0% Grain or Column still whiskey. This results in a much more flavoursome whiskey. The Founder’s Reserve is triple distilled and matured in Bourbon Casks, with fragrant notes of green apple and honey giving way to pot still spice and summer fruits. It was recently awarded Gold at the 2017 Irish Whiskey Awards in the Best Irish Blended Whiskey (RRP less than €60) category.

Also a Gold Medal Winner at The International Spirits Challenge in London, as well as one of the highest-rated Irish whiskeys in Jim Murray’s Whiskey Bible with 93 points; described as “quite a wonderful blend” and “quite simply an amazing whiskey!”

With an ABV of 40%, on the nose, it has a zesty spice, with black pepper, cinnamon and peaches and green apple. The taste is of pot still spice, with malt, dark chocolate, bourbon oak, and crème caramel. The finish is oak and butterscotch, and lingers for what seems like an eternity.

With a RRP of €35, it is stocked by all good retailers, including Supervalu, O’Brien’s, Dunnes Stores, Celtic Whiskey Shop and many more.

Super strength 2017 vintage

Walsh Whiskey Distillery has released its super premium 2017 vintage of Writers’ Tears Cask Strength (RRP: €125). The release is limited to 5,280 bottles available in selected international markets including Italy, France, Holland, Switzerland, and both the Irish domestic and travel retail markets.

The 2017 vintage marks a new departure, for the first time since the first Writers’ Tears Cask Strength release in 2011, with a completely new packaging design. The new design links the artistic essence of Writers’ Tears to the creativity of whiskey distilling through a stunning chalkboard illustration by Irish illustrator, Linda Byrne. It depicts the field-to-bottle creation of whiskey and the rural influence on age-old whiskey traditions.

Writers’ Tears Cask Strength 2017 was recognised with a gold medal in the Irish Cask Strength Whiskey category, mere hours after it was officially launched to market.

A rare cask strength vatting of Single Pot Still & Single Malt, limited to only 5,280 bottles, each of which is uniquely numbered and signed by founder Bernard Walsh. Writers’ Tears Cask Strength 2017 is natural non-chill filtered and was bottled at 53% in August 2017.

Four gold medals at Irish Whiskey Awards

Walsh Whiskey Distillery scooped an impressive medal haul at the Irish Whiskey Awards held in Dublin last month, winning a total of four gold medals for its premium whiskeys The Irishman and Writers’ Tears. The Irishman premium Irish whiskey range took home three gold medals in total, while Writers’ Tears added a further one to the Walsh Whiskey Distillery coffers.

The Irishman Founder’s Reserve, a unique blend of aged Single Pot Still and aged Single Malt Irish whiskeys, was awarded gold in the Irish Blended Whiskey (RRP of less than €60) category. The newly released The Irishman Founder’s Reserve Marsala Cask Finish, the first in the Founder’s Reserve Cask Series, took home gold in the Irish Single Cask Whiskey category. Released in August, The Irishman Founder’s Reserve Marsala Cask Finish expression sees the signature Founder’s Reserve whiskey, finished in Florio Marsala Wine Casks for Sicily for a minimum of 12 months.

The Irishman 17-Year-Old Single Malt, a distinctive single malt aged in first fill Oloroso Sherry butts, claimed gold in the Single Malt Whiskey (13 Years & Older) category, while Writers’ Tears Cask Strength 2017 was recognised with a gold medal in the Irish Cask Strength Whiskey category, mere hours after it was officially launched to market.

The annual event, hosted by the Celtic Whiskey Shop, is now in its fifth year and raises much needed funds for Mary’s Meals, which helps feed children in impoverished areas of the world.

Journey of discovery to Far East

Only launched in May 2016, Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin has already captured the imagination of the nation. From the curious mind of PJ Rigney, it has been voted Ireland’s best gin two years in a row (2016 and 2017) by the Irish public at the National Gin & Tonic fest. Slow-distilled by hand with oriental botanicals and gunpowder tea at The Shed Distillery in Drumshanbo, Co.Leitrim, the eye-catching blue bottle makes for a stand-out gift.

This Christmas, the gin will be available in a fascinating new gift box that will bring gin lovers on a journey of discovery to the Far East, through Asia, Africa and Europe – right back to its home in Drumshanbo, Co. Leitrim.

Signature red grapefruit serve:

  • Generous wedge of fresh red grapefruit
  • Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin – 40ml
  • Chilled Premium tonic – 140ml
  • Garnish with a thick wedge of red grapefruit
  • Served over cubed ice

Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin is distributed in Ireland by Dalcassian Wines & Spirits. With an RRP of €49 70cl, it is widely available, at O’Briens, Molloys, Tesco, Dunnes and independent off licences.

Generating a sales storm

Bermuda’s national drink, Gosling’s Dark ‘N Stormy, is the perfect festive drink this Christmas. A perfect marriage of Gosling’s Black Seal Rum which has a rich, intricate flavour, and the specially crafted Gosling’s Stormy Ginger Beer, it is a match made in holiday heaven.

Goslings is a super-premium dark rum made from a 150 year old Gosling’s family recipe. A blend of three different rums, aged independently for between three and six years in charred American oak casks, Gosling’s Black Seal Rum can be enjoyed as a Dark’n Stormy cocktail,

Black & Coke, Black & Tonic, as a Bermuda Coffee, and with fruit juices as a key ingredient to a variety of cocktails.

Gosling’s Ginger Beer was created by Goslings to perfectly complement Gosling’s Black Seal Rum in the signature drink, Dark ’N Stormy. Dark ‘N Stormy ingredients:

  • 1.5oz Gosling’s Black Seal Rum
  • 4oz Gosling’s Stormy Ginger Beer
  • In a tall glass filled with ice, add 4 – 5oz of Gosling’s Stormy Ginger Beer and top with Gosling’s Black Seal Rum.
  • Garnish with an optional lime wedge.

Gosling’s Black Seal Rum and Gosling’s Stormy Ginger Beer are distributed by Dalcassian Wines & Spirits.

Marriage made in heaven between Germany and Ireland

Von Hallers Gin, the second super-premium brand from The Shed Distillery, is the perfect Christmas gift for gin aficionados, designed for very special occasions and for gin connoisseurs who appreciate the rare and remarkable. A very precious gin, it comes in a 50cl size and in a very attractive gift box this Christmas.

Distributed by Dalcassian Wines & Spirits, Von Hallers is born in one of the world’s oldest botanical gardens in Göttingen, Germany and slow-distilled atThe Shed Distillery in Drumshanbo, Co. Leitrim. Just over a year ago Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin took the country by storm and now its curious creator, PJ Rigney, has embarked on an extraordinary new botanical journey with his good German friend, Count Carl Von Hardenberg Jr.

The result is Von Hallers small batch gin; aromatic, distinctive and pure. Named after the celebrated 18th century botanist Albrecht Von Haller, and also the namesake of one of the gin’s botanicals, Halleria Lucida, which is grown in the botanical gardens which he founded. Von Hallers is exquisite served with premium ginger beer, large ice cubes and a small wedge of orange.

This signature serve, developed around two of the gin’s core botanicals – German ginger and orange zest – is best enjoyed over time, slowly, sip by sip. The RRP is €50 for a 50cl bottle; available in O’Briens, select independent off-licences, select Tescos and Dunnes Stores Cornelscourt.

Beers and ciders

Iconic Gilroy designs

Guinness has launched a series of collectible cans to celebrate the 120th anniversary of John Gilroy’s birth – the artist behind the iconic Guinness advertisements that date back to the 1930s and 1960s. The charming limited-edition cans are illustrated with two of Gilroy’s iconic designs the lobster and the smiling pint.

Gilroy, the artist behind Guinness’ eye-catching campaigns spanning across four decades (1930-1961), is renowned for his vibrant, humorous and unforgettable designs, which not only put Guinness on the map as an iconic brand advertiser but also revolutionised the global face of advertising as a whole. In keeping with the style of Gilroy’s work, the vibrant illustrations are set against a white background this time the canvas is the can – a striking contrast to the “black” or Ruby red beer inside. “Gilroy’s iconic Guinness campaigns are recognised around the world and we are thrilled to be celebrating the 120th anniversary of his birth with the launch these limited edition cans,” said Nin Taank, Guinness brand manager.

‘My Goodness, My Guinness!’one of the longest running campaigns in history, features a hapless zoo keeper character – a caricature of Gilroy himself. Two of Gilroy’s other iconic designs feature on these limited-edition cans; the smiling pint and the lobster.

Self-described as “a fairly jolly man”, Gilroy is most recognised for the dash of humour he brought to every piece of work. The lobster design is a reminder of how the dry roasted, slightly bitter taste of Guinness is said to be the perfect seafood pairing.

The cans are stocked in multipack format across all major retailers in the Island of Ireland. For further information, visit

A soundtrack of substance

Throughout October and November, Smithwick’s Irish Ale has been hosting an exciting new music experience called ‘Smithwick’s Soundtrack Series’ which sees two of Ireland’s best live music acts, BARQ and Le Galaxie, showcase their contemporary take on two of the most memorable soundtracks of all time. Namely, Pulp Fiction and Apocalypse Now, in some of Ireland’s favourite music venues across Dublin, Cork, Belfast, Limerick and Sligo.

To celebrate the soundtracks that undoubtedly stand on their own, Smithwick’s has collaborated with BARQ and Le Galaxie (left) to curate a unique line-up of performances drawing on the soundtrack’s complexities and reinterpreting their classic arrangements.  “Smithwick’s has always been about doing what we love, which is brewing great ale – from our original Red Ale to our newer brews of Pale and Blonde,” a spokesperson said.

“We’re big fans of Le Galaxie and BARQ; their style, approach and attitude to their craft. Smithwick’s Soundtrack Series is all about celebrating passion and creativity which will shine through in each of the performances around the country.”

Tickets to Smithwick’s Soundtrack Series are priced at €15, which includes the booking fee and a free pint of Smithwick’s (Smithwick’s Blonde, Pale or Red Ale), available from

Hope springs eternal

Hope Beer drinkers will remember Limited Edition No. 4 Export Stout from the end of 2016 which was so tasty it was generously used in Mrs. Nixon’s Christmas puddings! The company is now delighted to announce that this year’s dark winter offering is another stout – Limited Edition No. 8 Imperial Stout, coming in at 10% ABV. Think full-bodied, rich with an elegant velvety mouthfeel, coffee and chocolate aromas, malty caramel and biscuit backbone, a decadent nod at the national drink. However, Hope Beer can’t take all the credit this time as No. 8 was a hugely enjoyable collaboration with the brand’s good friend, Shane Kelly of Dot Brew.

Cider champion

In recent times, the craft beer and cider markets entered their next evolutionary phase. The number of players within the category has grown very strongly, attaining a point of saturation whilst consumer novelty focuses more on new alcohol sectors. These two factors will combine to drive innovation, consolidation and a greater emphasis on distribution.

The Stonewell Cider Group is well-positioned to meet the latest consumer trends. The brand doesn’t add water, colourings or flavour enhancers, and is made only from fresh-pressed apple juice – unlike other competitors.

In addition, the new product innovation and accolades the brand has secured are a testament to the positive reaction from its customers. Strong packaging and an effective distribution channel are also essential to Stonewell’s competitive advantage; it has one of the strongest stand-out value bottle labels in the industry and an exceptional partner in Classic Drinks which supports the exclusive distribution of Stonewell across the State.

Stonewell experienced another successful year at the 2017 Blas na hÉireann Awards, and has exciting plans for new innovations. The company has been working with a number of different blends that it thinks could achieve as much success as its Supreme Champion Apple & Rhubarb cider Rós.

Stonewell is conducting a number of taste tests at present and in consultation with its distribution partner Classic Drinks, and is looking forward to bringing some of these to market in 2018. For enquiries, contact distributor Classic Drinks, Unit 5, OC Commercial Park. Little Island. Co. Cork. Tel: +353 21 4510066. Fax: +353 21 4355504. Email:


A dazzling Christmas selection

Febvre Wine Company is celebrating having won the Overall Wine of the Year, and Red Wine of the Year titles together with five Gold medals; three Silver Medals and one Bronze out of a total a grand total of 45 shortlisted wines, at the National Off-Licence Association’s Irish Wine Show Awards 2017/2018.

For those wishing to celebrate the festive season with champagne, Febvre suggests Gold Medal winner, Champagne Deutz Brut NV (RRP €55). The Overall Wine of the Year Winner is Jordan Barrel Fermented Chardonnay 2015 (RSP €20) from a small family-owned winery in Stellenbosch in South Africa. This is ideally enjoyed as an aperitif, or with Christmas day starters such as shellfish, fish patés and other sea foods. Top Red Wine of the Year is Conde Valdemar Reserva 2010 (RSP €17.50) Top Red Wine of the Year is Conde Valdemar Reserva 2010 (RSP €17.50) from Rioja in Spain that is an ideal accompaniment for the Christmas turkey or a good roast beef. To accompany the dessert, VAT 5 Botrytis Semillon from De Bortoli or a Muscat de Beaumes de Venise from Delas Frères would be a good choice (RSP €13 and €12 respectively for 37.5 bottle).

Meanwhile, Warre’s Otima 10 year old Tawny Port is a perfect match with the Christmas pudding, ice cream or with soft creamy cheeses. It is also really good with a foie-gras or a liver paté starter (€26.50 with a gift carton for 500ml bottle).

Some wines are ideally suited for a drop-in drink or a party over Christmas. One suggestion is a delicious Legendary Sauvignon Blanc Feteasca Regala and Legendary Pinot Noir from Cramele Recas in Romania, both priced at €9.99. Another option is Le Petit Gascoun Rouge Tannat Cabernet Franc and Blanc Colombard Ugni (both at €13) and both voted best new wine discovery at Vinisud 2017. Looking for an elegant suite of glasses for these wines? Look out for the range of Spiegelau glasses available in mixed drinks sets, various sized tumblers, a selection of glasses for wines and champagnes as well as some very classic decanters. All wines, glasses and decanters are stocked by independent off-licences nationwide.

Continuously pushing boundaries

Cono Sur points out that a dedication to producing top quality wines has always been at the forefront of everything the brand strives for. Since its creation in 1993, Cono Sur has continuously pushed the boundaries of Chilean winemaking in an effort to prove that the ‘Southern Cone’ can produce world-class wines that are on a par with some of the most historic and prestigious labels.

First there was the 20 Barrels range, initially an innovative project started in 1996 to produce Chile’s first ultra-premium Pinot Noir. It was so successful that it was expanded to include a number of other varieties and has established the range as the foremost selection of some of the finest wines Chile has to offer. The success of 20 Barrels led to the release in 2003 of Ocio, Chile’s first icon pinot noir and the zenith of Cono Sur’s ‘Pinot Noir Project’, an initiative started in 1999 in partnership with Burgundian consultant Martin Prieur.

The result is that Ocio is regularly recognised as not only the best Pinot Noir in Chile, but among the best in the world. Finally we saw the release in recent years of the natural extension of this insatiable drive for quality via the release of Cono Sur’s first icon Cabernet Sauvignon called Silencio. No effort is spared in the production of Silencio: hand-harvested from select old vines then aged for 26 months in new French oak barrels and a further two years aging in the bottle. Only nine barrels of the current 2010 vintage were made. The result is a wine with stunning presence. The Irish press has repeatedly lauded these top-quality wines, with Leslie Williams of the Irish Examiner noting the “depth and complexity” of the 20 Barrels Sauvignon Blanc, while Tomás Clancy, writing for the Sunday Business Post, gave it 91 points, exalting its “brilliant, restrained, Burgundy style”.

Cono Sur is exclusively distributed in Ireland by Findlater & Co.

Ongoing commitment to quality

One of Ireland’s favourite Australian wine brands, Wolf Blass  celebrated another successful year at the International Wine Challenge back in May. Its prestigious team of winemakers was awarded the Barossa Valley Shiraz Trophy for the Wolf Blass Platinum Label Shiraz 2013. Further to this eminent honour, Wolf Blass also won an incredible eight Gold, 23 Silver and 18 Bronze medals overall.

These awards come off the back of Wolf Blass being named International Red Winemaker of the Year for a record third time in 2016, as well as being named Winery of the Year by two separate panels that same year; Winestate Magazine and the InterVin International Wine Awards.

As the brand continues to impress in every competition it enters, these wins are a strong testament to the company’s ongoing commitment to quality above all else. Many of Wolf Blass’s IWC award-winning wines are currently available in Ireland via their exclusive Irish distributor Findlater & Co, including the popular President’s Selection Cabernet Sauvignon (Silver Medal) and the famous Yellow Label range, of which the Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Shiraz were all Bronze medal winners. The brand’s accessible “Aussie Blend” Red Label ShirazCabernet – a Bronze medal

winner – is also long known to the Irish consumer, while the Wolf Blass Silver Label Chardonnay (Bronze medal) was more recently introduced to these shores to great acclaim. Wolf Blass was established in the Barossa Valley in 1966 and has grown from a humble tin shed to become one of the world’s most successful and decorated wine brands. All told, it has been the recipient of more than 3,000 medals and trophies at national and international wine shows! Wolf Blass is exclusively distributed in Ireland by Findlater & Co.

Light way to celebrate!

Now consumers can celebrate Christmas and keep slim. B by Black Tower is a delicious low calorie wine with only 55 calories per glass, allowing more room for Christmas pudding. One of Ireland’s leading low calorie/low alcohol wine brands, it has unveiled a fresh and appealing new design just in time for the festive season. The new labels are stunning, evoking the luscious taste and low calorie appeal in a beautiful way. The new pack design maximises the brand to its fullest potential and enables the brand to be immediately recognised on shelf; perfect to pick up and enjoy during the festivities.

Party through Christmas and the New Year with B Secco . A light, refreshing sparkling low calorie wine with only 55 calories per glass. B Secco is stocked in Dunnes, Tesco, Supervalu, all major retailers and good off-licences this season, with a RSP of €6.49.




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