Irish whiskey needs ‘new and nimble’ distillers

13th July, 2018 by Melita Kiely

Irish whiskey “might have under-delivered” on innovation in previous decades but “new and nimble” distillers are now creating diversity to help the category grow, the MD of Walsh Whiskey Distillery has said.

Irish whiskey needs “new and nimble” distillers to create diversity, leading producers have encouraged

Speaking to The Spirits Business last month, Bernard Walsh, founder and managing director of Walsh Whiskey Distillery, said the category may have lacked innovation in the past, but partly attributed this to the number of distillers on the market.

Until 2013, the only distilleries producing and selling Irish whiskey were Cooley, Kilbeggan, New Midleton and Old Bushmills. By 2017, this number had more than quadrupled to 18 – and 16 more are already being planned.

Walsh said: “[Innovation] is possibly one area maybe in years gone by we might have under-delivered on.

“Innovation is high on the agenda and we need to broaden out the profile of Irish whiskey. Irish whiskey over the last century has really narrowed its focus but now we’re broadening out and innovation is leading to that.”

Jack Teeling, founder and managing director of the Teeling Whiskey Company, supported Walsh’s stance. He told SB that new Irish whiskey producers are “vital” to creating diversity within the category, which will be key to its success.

“We need to be able to connect with a new generation of drinkers, and it can’t all be down to one brand, or two brands, or blended whiskey; we need pot stills, single malts – we need variety.

“The new guys are needed to complement the bigger guys who do a lot of heavy lifting in terms of consumer recruitment, but we need discovery brands to keep them excited about Irish whiskey.

“If we can do that, we can keep going for the next 30 or 40 years.”

There have also been calls for more guidance for distillers on how to market and label Irish whiskey products from Mark Reynier, CEO of Waterford Distillery.

Meanwhile, John Teeling, founder of the Cooley Distillery, stressed that Irish whiskey “must not become Scotch” and the Irish Whiskey Association “must not become the Scotch Whisky Association”, which “stifles innovation”.

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