Confessions of a retailer: Celtic Whiskey Shop

18th May, 2018 by Owen Bellwood

Free tastings help get customers through the door, but it’s the brilliant staff that keep them coming back, believes the managing director of Dublin’s Celtic Whiskey Shop.

Ally Alpine, managing director of Celtic Whiskey Shop

Ally Alpine, managing director of Celtic Whiskey Shop

How did the Celtic Whiskey Shop start?

It was in 2003; there were only three distilleries in Ireland, and I was working for Oddbins, covering shops in Ireland, Scotland and England. I was always struck by the fact there was no spirit specialist in Ireland, in particular there was no one promoting Irish whiskey.

What has changed since you opened?

The past 14 years have seen a huge renaissance for Irish whiskey, with the number of distilleries in Ireland heading from three to 30 in the near future. Last year we opened our second premises, called the Celtic Whiskey Bar & Larder, as we wanted to try to replicate the offering in the shop in an on-­trade setting.

How would you describe the shop to someone who has never been?

We try to be an Aladdin’s cave of Irish whiskey, Scottish whisky and premium spirits. We try and stock all Irish whiskeys, with many exclusive bottlings. We’re also Ireland’s fortified wine specialist, and we import an extensive range of wines too.

How would you describe your current product selection?

It’s ever-­evolving. I’m spending a lot of time developing our Celtic Cask Whiskey range. We work with a lot of Irish whiskey distilleries to select the finest examples for further ageing and maturation. We mature them in our own high-­quality oak wine casks from some of the world’s top wineries. These Celtic Casks have been very successful, and we have been awarded Independent Bottler of the Year at the Independent Bottler’s Challenge for the past two years. We hope to expand our offering.

What do you look for in new products?

You can never beat when the staff get excited while tasting and talking about a new product. A current example would be the Teeling Revival Volume IV, which is finished in Muscat wine casks. This won Best Irish Whiskey Overall at last year’s Irish Whiskey Awards.

What’s your favourite product?

I love our Powers 16 Year Old Single Cask, which is bottled exclusively for us.

Is there anything you would love to see on your shelves?

It would be great to see a bigger range of Japanese whisky – but at more affordable prices.

What are the highlights of your job?

I work with a great team and I love trying to find the best products for each category we cover. I have a big soft spot for Sherry, as well as whisky, and I have the chance to import from the best in the business.

How have spirits sales changed and how do you keep up with these changes?

Vodka and rum were the hot drinks, but now it’s whisky and gin. The only way we can keep up is with a lot of tasting and research – one of the highlights of the job.

How do you react to changing trends in the drinks industry?

You have to embrace changes. Look at gin, it’s fantastic to see the growth in this category, and it means we get to work with all these Irish artisan producers.

What attracts new customers?

People come for the brilliant staff and the best products, but the free tastings also help. Our staff have a wealth of knowledge, which they are happy to share.

What has been the secret of the shop’s success?

Being forward­-thinking. We are always looking at ways we can improve our business and ways we can also improve the Irish drinks sector, whether it’s whiskey, spirits or wine. We also always have to think of new ways we can improve the customer experience and make our mark on the Irish whiskey industry.

One Response to “Confessions of a retailer: Celtic Whiskey Shop”

  1. Pat R. says:

    Truly one of the great spirits shops on the planet, and an essential stop on any trip to Dublin.

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