irish whiskey

Irish whiskey: Playing the long game

12 March, 2020

Johnstone adds: “At the moment we acquire whiskey from two or three distillers of note and then we bring the casks in and do what we want to be famous for – making great whiskey with our wood expertise.”

Quinzil Du Plessis, Kinahan’s master of wood and liquid innovation, says: “It’s diffcult to make a bad spirit these days because of all the checks and regulations you have to go through in order to produce a whiskey.

“It’s more about what you do with the liquid and how you choose your casks, select your wood and how you maintain them.

“All these things are big decisions and there’s a di erence between the wood changing your whiskey or just becoming a storage vessel. Some people are storing whiskey in old barrels which are done and it’s having no effect, which results in bad whiskey.”

STOCKS

Irish whiskey is one of the fastest growing spirits categories on the planet but it could do with learning from the supply and demand issues faced by Japanese whisky. In Japan the thirsty domestic market, combined with an international demand, put a strain on supplies, which led to shortages in exports. Ireland cannot afford to make the same mistake.

Bushmills’ Egan says: “The biggest issue our industry faces is how to meet demand while maintaining the quality consumers are looking for.

“Part of this is about continuing to use the right raw materials that help lead to the quality and taste we’re famous for. For instance, we’re always looking for the perfect casks to use to craft our whiskey.

“It’s important to maintain a high level of quality because another challenge is that the increased demand is making the category more competitive.”

The major investment of international conglomerates such as Pernod Ricard and Diageo suggests the top brands won’t su er from supply issues, but the new wave of premium Irish whiskeys are the ones that need to be proactive looking ahead.

Johnstone adds: “We went from 0-20 export markets in 12 months, which has kept us quite busy, but we’re not going to outstrip our supply. There’s not a bar- rel in Ireland that Quinzil doesn’t know about.”

TOURISTS

The safety net that has been presented to the Irish whiskey indus- try is the growth in tourism. According to the Irish Whiskey Association, visitors to the 17 open Irish whis- key visitor centres in 2018 rose 10.5% to more than 1m and in 2017 Irish Distillers invested €11m to refurbish its Jameson visitor centre in Midleton. Stephen Teeling says: “We’ve had half a million visitors since we opened in 2015 and the surprise for us is that 25% of them are Irish, even though we thought it would be an export-led strategy.

“The category is in a good place with a lot of energy. In the next ve to 10 years the category is set to double or if not triple in size, which is a vast increase. Will the big players get bigger? I’d say most definitely but the more premium, specialist section will certainly grow.”

What needs to happen for Irish whiskey to continue on its dramatic rise is for premium newcomers to ensure their future stocks and revenues are secure. This will see them out-live the short-term money making bottlers and fine tune the Irish whiskey sector to make it one of the world’s great whiskey producing countries. There has never been a more exciting time for Irish whiskey, even prior to the great depression, with innovative brands such as Kinahan’s pushing the boundaries, new age premium brands such as Teeling flying the premium flag and major players like Jameson putting it on the map internationally.

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Keywords: irish whiskey, jameson, powers, teeling, Kinahan’s

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