The Strategist

Revival of Irish whiskey: "Water of life" is growing in price

04/17/2019 - 15:30

Dublin was once the world capital of whiskey. In its heyday in the 19th century, Irish whiskey accounted for about 60 percent of global whiskey consumption. Almost all production was located in Dublin with its world's largest factories.

But then the decline began. By the beginning of the 60s of the 20th century, several whiskey enterprises were still operating in Ireland, but soon they were merged into a single group called Irish Distillers. Probably, this decision saved Irish whiskey as a whole. In the 70s, distillation of whiskey in Dublin completely stopped. Annual production throughout the country was less than 400,000 boxes (4.8 million bottles), while at the peak of production, at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, the volume reached 12 million boxes per year (144 million bottles).

Sales of whiskey from Ireland grew in the 80s of the last century, which was caused by large investments by Pernod Ricard, a French company for the production of alcoholic beverages, which acquired the Irish Distillers in 1988. However, the real revival of Irish whiskey began only in the last few years.

“What happened in this decade is phenomenal,” said William Lavelle, head of the Irish Whiskey Association, in an interview with DW. - “The number of distilleries increased from four to 24 today. Sales also increased: 6 million boxes were sold per year at the beginning of the decade, and by the end of 2020 this number could more than double to 12.5 million "- Lavelle notes.

The numbers are definitely impressive. For several years, the pace of sales of Irish whiskey has outpaced the performance of all other long-lasting strong drinks, and its share on the world market is already about 5%. In general, global demand for whiskey is growing sharply. And although bourbon (American whiskey) and scotch still have a much larger market share, Irish whiskey sales are growing much faster.

Bold step

Perhaps even more impressive is the appearance of new whiskey plants in Dublin and throughout the country. In addition to the already mentioned increase in their number from 4 to 24, twenty more enterprises are planned for the near future.

The plant’s representative, Chris Hayes, says that now in Ireland there are a number of new brands of whiskey. "People used to drink one or two brands of Irish whiskey, but now they want to experiment and try something new," he says.

William Lavelle, head of the Irish Whiskey Association, cites several reasons for this boom. One of them is the size of investments received in the last thirty years from foreign corporations supporting Irish "super brands" - such as the famous Jameson, currently one of the best-selling whiskeys in the world. Lavelle also emphasizes "courage and entrepreneurship" of small producers.

At that, the key factor is the way in which Irish whiskey has been generally served on the market in recent years, as well as interest of tourists. Many decades have passed since Dublin was the capital of whiskey production, but the local tourist center Jameson Distillery still attracts more guests per year than any similar establishment in Scotland or Kentucky where American whiskey is made.

Despite the fact that there are problems in the industry - for example, counterfeiting branded drinks - Lavelle believes that the current rise will continue for some time, after which the industry will gradually stabilize. According to expert forecasts, this can happen in 10-12 years. By the way, the word "whiskey" itself is an English adaptation of the Irish phrase “uisce beatha”, the "water of life". And judging by what is happening in Ireland, life really returned to one of the oldest industries.