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Single Pot Still Irish Whiskies Begin To Take Larger Share Of Category Sales

August 27, 2018

A unique Irish whiskey style known as single pot still whiskey is now accounting for a growing share of the Irish category. While single malts are made with 100% malted barley and single grains are primarily corn-and barley-based, single pot still whiskies are made with a mixed mash of malted and unmalted barley. This lends a spicier, more peppery finish to the taste.

Pernod Ricard’s Irish Distillers unit is highly active in the single pot still segment with several brands, including Redbreast, Green Spot, Yellow Spot, Mildeton, and Powers. While Redbreast and Green Spot rose by 6.5% and 9%, respectively, reaching 27,000 cases and 7,000 cases in 2017, Powers saw declines of 5.8% to 25,000 cases. Redbreast has recently been bolstered by such high-end innovations as its Lustau Edition ($69 a 750-ml.), matured in ex-Bourbon and Oloroso Sherry casks and then finished for one year in Sherry butts from Bodegas Lustau. Last year, Irish Distillers invested $11 million in its Midleton Distillery in County Cork, Ireland, aiming to grow the facility’s single pot still capacity by more than 30%. Three new copper pot stills were installed at the distillery and became operational last June.

At Walsh Whiskey in Carlow, Ireland, commercial director John Kelly sees great opportunity for the single pot still style. “Single pot still is a fantastic opportunity for Irish whiskey to put itself out there as a category, and differentiate it from, say, Scotch whisky,” he says. “This whiskey can create a conversation about the category and what sets it apart.” Walsh Whiskey produces two labels, the first of which—The Irishman—is geared toward the connoisseur class and includes such expressions as The Irishman Founder’s Reserve ($30), a combination of 70% single malt and 30% single pot still whiskey. Writers’ Tears, the second label in the Walsh Whiskey portfolio, features offerings like Copper Pot ($40), which is likewise made with pot still and single malt whiskey, but aimed at a younger demographic.

New to the U.S. market this year is Dingle Distillery, which currently produces a single malt expression but has plans to introduce a single pot still whiskey in the near future. “It’s a unique style in Irish whiskey,” says Elliot Hughes, partner at the distillery and son of late founder Oliver Hughes. “The mix of malted and unmalted barley gives the liquid a much more viscous feel. It’s my favorite style, and one that I believe we can get across to the American public, especially given its value within the community of Irish whiskey distillers.” Master distiller Michael Walsh adds that while the number of single pot still whiskey producers in Ireland has grown, plenty of opportunity remains. “There’s still a gap in the market for this amazing style of whiskey,” he says. “We’ve now doubled the number of distilleries producing single pot still, but there’s room for many, many more.”Julia Higgins

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