IWA honours founders of the Irish whiskey “renaissance”

Six icons of Ireland's whiskey industry have been honoured with IWA Chairman's Awards
Six icons of Ireland's whiskey industry have been honoured with IWA Chairman's Awards

The Irish Whiskey Association has launched the IWA Chairman's Awards, a biennial event that will recognise the people, distilleries and partners who make an outstanding contribution to Ireland's thriving whiskey industry.



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20 November 2018

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The Irish Whiskey Association has launched a new awards initiative, the IWA Chairman’s Awards, which will recognise “the people, distilleries and industry partners that have made an outstanding contribution to the development of the Irish whiskey industry and category.” The IWA Chairman’s Awards, named for IWA Chairman and Bushmills Master Distiller Colum Egan, will take place biennially.

The inaugural awards were presented to six “legends of the Irish whiskey industry”, who were pivotal in kick-starting the Irish whiskey renaissance in the late 80s and early 90s. They are:

  • Richard Burrows, former CEO of Irish Distillers
  • John Chamney, former export director of Tullamore D.E.W., currently director of Walsh Whiskey Company
  • Barry Crockett, former master distiller at Midelton Distillery, Irish Distiller
  • Gill Jefferson, former managing director of Bushmills Distillery
  • Willie McCarter, former executive director of Cooley Distillery
  • John Teeling, founder of Cooley Distillery, currently executive chairman of Great Northern Distillery.

The IWA says it decided to launch these awards now because of the whiskey industry’s monumental growth in recent years. It has grown from just two distilleries in the early 1980s to more than 20 now; global sales of Irish whiskey have increased to 10m+, from less than 500,000 per year in the early 1980s.

Colum Egan, chairman of the Irish Whiskey Association, said it was an honour to celebrate those who laid the foundations for that growth. “As a result of their vision, leadership and ambition to succeed,” Egan said, “our industry is now thriving and sales of Irish whiskey are booming all over the world.

“We hope that through these awards we can shine a spotlight on everyone who makes a significant contribution to the industry,” he continued, “be that through product or process innovation, market growth or even strategic partnerships with other industries globally or domestically.”

John Teeling, winner of an IWA Chairman’s Award, said that the renaissance of Irish whiskey is still only on its “first lap”.

“To see an idea that one had in the 1970s turning into a rapidly growing industry is very satisfying,” he said.  “Don’t listen to old fuddy duddies dressed in kilts and sporrans – they think they know how to make good whiskey. The consumer will decide what good whiskey is.”

Irish whiskey has experienced exponential growth from two distilleries in the early 1980s, to over 20 by the end of this year. Irish whiskey is the world’s fastest-growing spirit category with ambitious targets set for further growth in markets worldwide.

It is expected that over 10.5 million cases of Irish whiskey will be sold internationally in 2018 compared with under 500,000 cases in the early 1980s. The industry is on track to exceed growth targets of 12 million cases by 2020, with sights set on reaching 24 million cases by 2030.



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