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Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey Shows Potential

February 2, 2012

Single Pot Still Irish whiskey is still barely a niche in the U.S. market. Right now it’s represented by just one brand—Redbreast from Pernod Ricard’s Irish Distillers unit. But Redbreast has developed an ardent following among whiskey enthusiasts and is showing rapid growth from a small base.

Single Pot Still Irish whiskey is made from malted and unmalted barley that’s triple distilled in traditional copper pot stills. It’s known for being more full-flavored than mainstream Irish brands, with more complex nuances. The style isn’t new, but in fact was hugely popular until the early 20th century, when lighter Irish whiskeys came into vogue.

Brendan Buckley, category development director at Irish Distillers, projects Redbreast’s U.S. volume will reach 15,000 cases in its current fiscal year ending in June. That’s a strong uptick from calendar 2010, when Redbreast’s volume rose 43% to 10,000 cases, according to Impact Databank. Last year Redbreast 12-year-old won the “Irish Whiskey Of The Year” award from Whisky Advocate magazine, a publication of M. Shanken Communications.

Redbreast’s core 12-year-old expression retails at $45 a 750-ml. while the 15-year-old retails at $75. Irish Distillers has three other Single Pot Still brands in its stable—Green Spot, Power’s John Lane and Midleton Barry Crockett Legacy—but says there are no plans yet to bring them stateside.

This month, Pernod Ricard USA is rolling out a new Redbreast line extension—a 12-year-old cask strength expression retailing at $65 a 750-ml. Its earlier release in Europe has drummed up interest among connoisseurs, and it’s expected to get an enthusiastic response in the U.S. market.

Pernod Ricard recently announced a €150 million ($213m) investment in the Midleton distillery to double warehousing and distilling capacity. “That will make us one of the biggest whiskey producers in the world in terms of traditional pot still production,” Buckley said.

 

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