A cut above

11 May, 2018

Ireland’s triple distilled whiskey continues to forge ahead. Christian Davis reports.

IRISH WHISKEY SALES have risen by 300% in a decade and are predicted to double by 2020 and by 2030 to be in the region of 24m cases a year. Until a few years ago Irish whiskey was dominated by one company, Irish Distillers, which was a monopoly owning the two operating distilleries, Midleton near Cork and Bushmills in Northern Ireland. That has all changed. There are currently 18 working distilleries with a further 16 in the pipeline. Nevertheless, most of the Irish whiskey, certainly in bottle, has come from Midleton, now owned by France-based drinks giant Pernod Ricard. More of that later.

The outstanding brand is, of course, ID’s Jameson. Irish Distillers’ strategy, insight, innovation and prestige whiskeys director, Brendan Buckley, tells DI: “Irish whiskey is undergoing a global renaissance. Jameson continues to lead the Irish whiskey category globally and is the number one Irish whiskey in the world.

“Jameson recorded strong half-year results to the end of December 2017, with 12% organic sales growth, with all regions contributing to this success. The brand is now in double and triple-digit growth in 80 of the 130-plus markets in which it is sold around the world. While the growth has been driven by the US, Europe, Africa and the Middle East we have also seen a particularly strong growth coming in the Asian and Latin American markets,” he says.

“Consumers, particularly millennials, are showing signs of appreciating higher-end and super-premium products and at Irish Distillers we are well placed to meet this trend. Growth of our prestige range, led by Redbreast and Midleton Very Rare, reflects the growing consumer appetite for premium Irish whiskeys, and the resurgence of the time-honoured single pot still Irish whiskey,” says Buckley.

Pernod Ricard chairman and chief executive Alexandre Ricard, speaking at the recent half-year results briefing said that the company was over-investing in Jameson in the US as it was one of the Pernod brands driving top-line growth, along with The Glenlivet.

He singled out the Jameson Caskmates range as an example of what the company was doing to develop a brand and drive growth through innovation.

He said it had identified the trend for craft beer and for being local. To that end, Irish Distillers is looking to team up with brewers in major US cities to obtain beer casks to produce a ‘local’ version of Caskmates.

Tullamore Dew global ambassador John Quinn says: “The Irish whiskey market is in good health at the moment with double-digit growth globally and key markets such as the US showing no signs of stopping any time soon. Of course the category is dominated by a few of the bigger brands and these are driving the majority of the growth but it is allowing for all the newer (and therefore smaller) brands to catch the ride and show some really nice business growth themselves.

“Let’s remember that, while the category is growing very fast, at 9m cases we are still a long way behind scotch (90m), American whiskeys (40m) and Canadian (20m) – even Japanese whisky outsells Irish at this point.”

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