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Irish Whiskies Amp Up The Volume For St. Patrick’s Day

March 17, 2023

Irish whiskey is among the most ascendant categories in the U.S. spirits market, trailing only Tequila for imported spirits growth in 2022, according to Impact Databank. The category cracked six million cases last year, continuing a long-term upswing in which it’s expanded every year for the last quarter century, with the lone exception of pandemic-disrupted 2020. While Irish whiskey sees innovations and promotion throughout the year, the late winter and early spring lead-up to St. Patrick’s Day brings out big new ad campaigns and releases to drive consumer interest.

Category leader Jameson, owned by Pernod Ricard and produced at Irish Distillers, grew nearly 9% last year, nearing 4.5 million cases, according to Impact Databank. For St. Patty’s Day this year, Jameson launched an ad campaign featuring actress Regina Hall using a “Jameson Desk Decoy”—a cardboard of herself—to skip work and celebrate the holiday.

William Grant & Sons’ Tullamore Dew, the second-largest Irish whiskey in the U.S., approached 340,000 cases in 2022. The company tells SND the brand is doubling down on its commitment to the on-premise this St. Patrick’s Day, “investing heavily in bartender advocacy and consumer sampling, focusing on converting trade and returning to pre-pandemic levels in the sector at nearly 40% of its overall business.” That effort is “supported by the biggest investment in media in the brand’s history and a new Irish distillery.”

New products are also a key part of the St. Patrick’s Day opportunity for several brands. Proximo Spirits’ two largest Irish whiskies—Proper No. Twelve and Bushmills, roughly flat at 275,000 cases and 195,000 cases last year—have recently expanded their offerings, with Proper No. Twelve launching Irish Apple, its first flavored offshoot. The 35% abv flavored whiskey is debuting in 50-ml., 750-ml., and 1-liter bottles with the 750-ml. retailing for a suggested price of $25.

For Bushmills, Proximo has released two new high-age single malts. Bushmills 25-year-old is first matured in Bourbon and Sherry barrels before aging for 21 years in a Ruby Port cask and retails for $900. The other release, Bushmills 30-year-old, spent 14 years in Bourbon and Sherry casks before spending an additional 16 years in Pedro Ximénez sherry casks. The 30-year-old carries a suggested price of $2,200.

Teeling Irish whiskey, part-owned by Bacardi, has taken a cocktail-focused approach for St. Patty’s Day. The brand teamed up with Brooklyn, New York’s Variety Coffee Roasters to create a coffee blend aimed at featuring Teeling in the Irish Coffee serve. A cocktail kit including the coffee and a bottle of Teeling is available through ReserveBar.

Several newcomers from Irish Distillers have also hit the market lately. Through Pernod subsidiary Castle Brands, the company has released Method & Madness, distilled from a mash of 60% rye and 40% malted barley aged in ex-Bourbon barrels and bottled at 46% abv. It’s exclusively available in the U.S. with only 5,000 bottles released, retailing at $80 a 700-ml.

Also at the higher end, Pernod has released a new wine cask-finished single pot still whiskey in the Spot family. Green Spot Quails’ Gate is bottled at 46% abv and first matured in ex-Bourbon and ex-Sherry casks before finishing in Pinot Noir barrels for 16 months. The newest of the Spot whiskies is rolling out now in limited quantities retailing $70 a bottle.

Pernod’s Powers brand has received a new Irish rye whiskey. Bottled at 43.2% abv, Powers Irish Rye is distilled from 100% rye and aged in a combination of new, first-fill, and refill American oak barrels. The new permanent addition to the Powers family retails at around $32.

Meanwhile, Walsh Whiskey, part of SPI Group’s Amber Beverage stable and handled by Hotaling in the U.S., recently released the 2023 edition of Writers’ Tears Cask Strength Irish whiskey ($160), as well as the first single pot still bottling ($80) from the brand.—Shane English

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