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Walsh Whiskey Looks To Lead The Irish Innovation Push

November 23, 2016

Walsh Whiskey, imported by Palm Bay International, is among a number of rising independent players pushing the envelope in the Irish whiskey space.As the Irish category continues to soar—particularly in the U.S., where it rose 18% to nearly 3 million cases in 2015, according to Impact Databank—Walsh’s core brands The Irishman and Writers Tears are gaining momentum from a small base. The portfolio is currently at about 20,000 cases in the U.S., with the flagship The Irishman Founder’s Reserve ($38) contributing much of that volume.

In June, Walsh Whiskey opened a €25 million ($28m), 650,000-case distillery and visitor center in County Carlow, Ireland. It’s one of a number of new distilleries featured in the upcoming Winter issue of Whisky Advocate, which takes an in-depth look at the Irish whiskey renaissance. The issue will be released on December 6.

At its new distillery, Walsh will focus on experimentation while also continuing to contract whiskey from Irish Distillers at Midleton. “With The Irishman range and Writers Tears, we need to diversify and give consumers more choices,” says founder Bernard Walsh, who also serves as chairman of the Irish Whiskey Association. “Scotch whisky produces thousands of expressions, and there’s no end to the number of finishes. Irish whiskey has only started doing that in the last 10 years, and we’re trying to accelerate it.”

Among Walsh’s recent releases, Writers Tears debuted single malt and single pot still whiskey Copper Pot ($45), last year. It’s distributed in New York, Pennsylvania, Washington D.C. and Massachusetts. In addition, The Irishman Cask Strength 2016 is currently being bottled and will be sold in the U.S. on allocation. The company’s other whiskies available in the U.S. include The Irishman Single Malt ($46), 12-year-old Single Malt ($75) and Cask Strength ($150).

As Irish whiskey’s expansion trend accelerates, Walsh believes keeping pace with demand will become a significant challenge. “We see Irish whiskey continuing its growth in the U.S. very strongly over the next 10 years and taking market share from a lot of other categories, but it’s all got to start with production investment,” Walsh says. —Kimberly Tharel

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