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Irish Up Close

What's Behind The Irish Surge?


These are the best of times for Irish whiskey, which represented 1.4% of the spirits overall U.S. spirits market in 2015. May not sound like much, but 10 years earlier that figure was 0.4%.  Of course, the Irish boom has been famously brand-driven, with Jameson not merely in the driver's seat, but essentially helping fill up the whole car, having deftly in recent years expanded the brand’s Expressions to include reserve bottling and special finishes, most notably Jameson Select Reserve and Caskmates; and Jameson Black Barrel made a splash with its launch in 2016.

Meanwhile, Jameson parent company Pernod Ricard has flexed the category at the high end as well, with Redbreast and Green Spot leading the super-premium tier, and Jameson 18 Year Old and The Midleton beckoning at the ultra-premium level.

Other top-selling Irish whiskey brands include Tullamore DEW (William Grant & Sons); Bushmills Original (Proximo Spirits); 2 Gingers (Beam Suntory); Paddy (Sazerac); Powers (Pernod Ricard); Black Bush (Diageo); and Clontarf Black Label (Castle Brands).

Success naturally invites players to the arena. New or updated brands include The Pogues, Teeling and Bushmills Black Bush. And never underestimate the power of Irish sentiment in branding; to wit, West Cork, Donegal Estates, Knappogue Castle, Claddagh and The Irishman all pack natural appeal for fans of the Emerald Isle.

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