irish whiskey

Irish whiskey: Playing the long game

12 March, 2020

Teeling launched its rst whiskey in 2013 and now employs 10 brand ambassadors in the US alone, having sold 1m bottles last year. The brand is one of the leaders in the wave of new premium Irish whiskeys, which have begun to diversify a market dominated by the Goliath that is Jameson.

Teeling adds: “We’ve been talking about the premiumisation of Irish whiskey for more than 10 years now and to see it actually happening is exciting.”

He says: “In terms of the category shakeout I would question the brands that have not thought about the long term. Have they gone through the process of building their own distillery or do they really understand what the consumer is looking for? Often they come from outside the whiskey industry.

“It’s important to look ve to 10 years ahead rather than ve to 10 weeks, which some new brands are trying to do. There are new young brands coming to market thinking they can skip a few steps and it just doesn’t work in the same way as gin.”

Surfing across the Irish Sea to Scotland, whisky has witnessed a boom in the popularity of single malts, given their premium and more inter- esting appeal to consumers around the world. Now a similar trend has emerged in Ireland with a wave of new single malts coming to market, including Teeling, in an attempt to replicate this success.

Teeling adds: “There’s a massive role for single malt to play in Irish whiskey and I truly believe there’s scope to have an Irish single malt with a much wider appeal internationally.

“But I think Irish single malts t into the world whiskey movement rather than going up against scotch. I also don’t think the future for Irish whiskey is by trying to tap into the age statement scotch single malt category, but instead those consumers looking for interesting world single malts.”


The extensive history of Irish whiskey means there’s not just an opportunity to launch new brands, but to resurrect those with an immediate heritage.

Kinahan’s was originally launched in 1779 and still carries the ‘LL’ mark on every bottle, after the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland demanded his own vat of whisky back in 1807. However, a er the brand disappeared during the Irish whiskey depression of the 1920s it was revived in 2014 and began exporting the following year. The company launched The Kasc Project last year, which employs what it calls hybrid cask ageing to give its whiskeys a unique profile. The technique uses barrels made from very different wood types to age its liquid, which is something new to the category.

“We aren’t a big corporation so we can’t launch gimmicks,” says Lewis Johnstone, global sales and marketing officer. “We’re never going to stop innovating because we want to push the boundaries.”

The brand is using woods from Portugal, old armagnac casks and even chestnut in its experimentation, which shows just how far it’s willing to push the category forward and offer something new.

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