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Pernod’s Single Pot Still Range Drives Irish Whiskey’s Premiumization

September 29, 2021

As the owner of Irish Distillers, Pernod Ricard has a dominant portfolio in Irish whiskey, and its presence extends well beyond leading brand Jameson. The company also owns the fifth-largest Irish whiskey in the U.S., Redbreast. Last year, Redbreast jumped 19.1% to 47,000 cases and it will almost certainly cross the 50,000-case mark for the first time this year, with volume up 43% in control states in the first half. “2021 has been a very strong year for Redbreast across the range of expressions from 12-year-old to 15, 21, 27, Lustau, and Cask Strength. It remains the largest selling single pot still Irish whiskey in the world with a loyal following and a proud Irish heritage,” says Jeff Agdern, senior vice president at Pernod Ricard USA for the New Brand Ventures & Prestige portfolios.

At the peak of the Irish whiskey category in retail pricing terms, Pernod Ricard has the Spot and Midleton lines. The Spot range includes non-age-statement (NAS) and aged-stated whiskies, plus wine-cask-finished variants of the NAS Green Spot. The brand’s Yellow Spot is bottled at 12 years and the Red Spot is bottled at 15. The latest release, the Blue Spot, is a 7-year-old cask strength whiskey that returned to the global market late last year after a 56-year absence.

The Midleton whiskies are the luxury arm of Pernod Ricard’s growing pot still empire. The brand releases a vintage blend each year, with the 2021 edition marrying pot still and grain whiskies aged from 13-35 years. It retails at $220. Midleton also bottles Barry Crockett Legacy and the Dair Ghaelach line, the latter of which uses Irish oak sourced from forests across the island. Midleton is truly the luxury pinnacle of Irish whiskey with some releases commanding five-figure prices, Agdern adds, pointing to the Midleton Very Rare Silent Distillery collection, which recently launched its second chapter: a 70-bottle run of 46-year-old whiskey that retails for $45,000.

Agdern notes that Pernod has seen growth for its higher-end offerings but that it is primarily a retail phenomenon so far. “From an on-premise perspective, we haven’t seen reopenings moving the needle in terms of category growth. Much of our growth can be attributed to our innovation pipeline and consumers’ growing interest and enthusiasm for the Irish whiskey category,” he says.

“We do see premiumization happening in Irish whiskey,” agrees Jeff Feist, category lead for spirits and more at West Coast retailer BevMo, which was recently acquired by up-and-coming e-commerce player GoPuff. “Redbreast 12, even though it’s a $55 item for us, is the third best selling Irish whiskey that we have. There’s obviously a clientele for that.”

The premiumization and innovation trends in Irish whiskey appear here to stay, according to Sona Bajaria, vice president of marketing for Jameson at Pernod Ricard USA. “Although some consumers may have preconceptions about Irish whiskey—especially when it comes to taste, when to consume, and how to mix in a cocktail—we’re seeing its popularity continue to grow as more consumers understand the versatility and approachability of the category. This interest has accelerated innovation, which is great news for the category as a whole,” she says.—Shane English

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