Brown-Forman opens first Irish whiskey distillery
Brown-Forman has opened its first Irish whiskey distillery north of Dublin.
Following a $50million investment, Slane Distillery will soon begin producing whiskey in a historic location that was an important centre for Irish whiskey production in the 18th and 19th centuries
“With the opening of Slane Distillery, we aim to restore this legacy for future generations by combining the best of traditional Irish whiskey craftsmanship with progressive process innovation," Alex Conyngham, co-founder, Slane Irish Whiskey said.
Construction of the distillery on the Slane Castle Estate began in September 2015 in restored 18th-century horse stables and courtyards.
Brown-Forman, which invested $50 million on the distillery and tourist experience, has installed three hand-beaten copper pot stills and six column stills to produce Slane Irish Whiskey, which will be aged in a triple-cask process. The whiskey will be aged in virgin oak, seasoned oak bourbon and Tennessee whiskey barrels and sherry casks.
Brown-Forman's first distillery outside of the US
Slane is the first distillery Brown-Forman has built outside of the United States, as the company moves to tap into the booming Irish whiskey market.
According to data from the Distilled Spirits Council, Irish whiskey sales have increased by 429% in terms of volume from 2006 to 2016. It's up 18.7% in terms of volume between 2015 and 2016 compared with bourbon's 6.8% growth rate during that period.
Slane Irish Whiskey was launched in Ireland earlier this year and has been available in Australia since July.
It was produced with sourced whiskey; the spirits produced on site will be released in a few years.
Brown-Forman’s John Hudson, who was instrumental in the Slane Irish whiskey project, has praised the whiskey as “the creation of an exceptional spirit, combining the traditions of the past with the emergent Ireland of today.”
Drinks companies take advantage of Irish whiskey boom
Irish whiskey has grown 131% by volume globally in the last decade, compared to a 13% rise for Scotch whisky and 56% rise for bourbon in the same period.
While Irish whiskey sales are smaller than scotch and bourbon sales volumes at just 7.8 million cases in 2015, the strong growth rate makes it the world’s fastest-growing spirit.
In its new ‘Export Performance and Prospects for 2016-2017’ report, Irish food board Bord Bia estimates that Irish whiskey exports will double in volume terms by 2020 compared to 2015, with a further two-fold increase to 24 million cases by 2030.
The Irish whiskey sector is currently dominated by Pernod Ricard’s Jameson brand, which makes up 67% of all global volume and is responsible for much of the category’s growth.
Irish Distillers, the company that produces Jameson, Powers, and Redbreast, is set to up its production of Irish whiskey by a third in 2017, making a 12 million euro investment in new distilling tanks at its Cork distillery.
Last year, Jameson whiskey celebrated its 27th consecutive year of growth, selling more than 5.7 million cases worldwide for the year ending in June 2016. It represents one-quarter of Pernod Ricard’s total sales in the US, and is enjoying double and triple-digit growth in 62 of its 130 markets worldwide.
Diageo is eager to get a piece of the Irish whiskey pie, after exiting the market in 2014. The company sold its Irish whiskey brand Bushmills in 2014 as part of a deal to acquire Mexican tequila brand Don Julio. At the time, analysts criticised the decision, noting tequila appeared to have reached its peak while Irish whiskey was continuing.
Earlier this year, it announced it will spend 25 million euros building a distillery in Dublin to produce its new Roe & Co label. Its master blender, Caroline Martin, has been trialing more than 100 prototype blends for Roe & Co since December 2014.
There are currently 30 new or proposed Irish whiskey production sites across the island of Ireland.
Miriam Mooney, head of the Irish Whiskey Association (IWA), told The Spirits Business: “In 2013, there were only four distilleries operating in Ireland, now there are 16 distilleries in production and a further 14 in planning. We are really ambitious for our sector, there is huge potential for growth for both small and large entrants to the category. Last year we launched the Irish Whiskey Tourism Strategy which is an all island strategy that proposes the development of an Irish whiskey trail across the island. We believe that given the right government supports and collaboration of state agencies north and south of the border, Irish whiskey tourism will increase from 650,000 a year to 1.9 million by 2025 across the island.”
Slane Irish Whiskey (40% ABV) is available in Australia from September 2017. Currently, it is only available in Ireland, limited states in the USA, the UK, and Australia. To pre-order, contact your Brown-Forman rep.