is a
Small but Potent, the Irish Whiskey
Category is Proving to be
Popular by Demand
By Jeffery Lindenmuth
ou can’t credit success like this to
the luck of the Irish: for 2012, Irish
whiskey showed growth in every
key global market, including a volume
increase of 24% to 1.71 million nine-liter cases
in the U.S., the number one market for Irish
whiskey, according to Impact Databank.
“It shows no signs of stopping,” says Hannah
O’Leary, brand ambassador for Jameson, the world’s
leading Irish whiskey, owned by Pernod Ricard’s Irish
Distillers. “The whole category is sort of a runaway
freight train. People were once concerned that Jame-
son shots would be a fad, but there are no signs of slow-
ing.” Jameson is indisputably the engine of this train,
with 76% of Irish whiskey sales in the U.S., represent-
ing about 86% of growth, according to O’Leary. The
growth of Irish whiskey is so dramatic, and prolonged,
that this once heavily consolidated category is invit-
ing impressive new investment.
Keys to Success
“I think it’s fair to say that our goal is to grow the
category. Success is when Irish whiskey does well.
We aim to grow the whole pie,” says O’Leary. While
Irish whiskey remains a popular bar shot (about 60%
of Jameson consumed in shot), the expanding usage
opportunities and new consumers portend more, and
broader, growth.
The industry hopes to develop a gradual trend
toward year-round drinking, flattening out the dra-
matic peaks of December (holiday) and March (St.
Patrick’s Day) consumption, notes O’Leary. There is
also growth to be had in long drinks, especially Jame-
son and ginger ale, which appeals to the important
female market for Irish whiskey. And, while Irish
whiskey has largely sat idle for America’s cocktail re-
naissance, there are signs that, too, is changing, with
the appearance of Irish whiskey-based punches and
cocktails on trendsetting lists, like New York City’s
Dead Rabbit Grocery and Grog, featuring drinks in-
spired by a place and time when Irish whiskey was
whiskey in America.
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