Chicken Licken, the Sky is falling in

Jan 30, 2024 | News, Opinion, Whiskey News

So we were a little unwell and did not do our usual videos in the run-up to our monthly auction starting last Friday but that does not mean I am not still ranting about something.

I am a little frustrated at the minute with the amount of ‘Doom and Gloom’ that is surrounding the whiskey market in Ireland. Oh, the market is collapsing, Oh, prices are half at the minute, Oh, people are getting out of whiskey. oh, oh, oh..

Give it a rest lads. Irish whiskey has never been in a better place, we are still growing in most markets that we are in , but this wee echo chamber that we live in, in Ireland is not the be-all and end-all for the Irish Whiskey Industry. Yes, it is great for brands to have a presence in Ireland so that they can comment in other jurisdictions that their whiskey is available on shelves , in bars and off-licences across our fair Isle, but more and more brands don’t even have a presence in Ireland. How many times have we seen labels and brands that are “new” to us here but are well-established in other countries? The cost of getting on shelves in Ireland can be prohibitive, between taxes and duties, but also for the margins that some retailers expect and then the additional cost of promotional material and maybe a brand ambassador to support the sales. I can see and understand the reasoning behind why some choose not to try and grow their sales in Ireland.

The issue I have is that the constant commentary of the prices collapsing and brands folding is detrimental to so many causes. “Build it and they will come” are the words that ring in my ears on this. Constantly talking down the industry, and the demand for the products , can be a deterrent to new entries to the market and new audiences being attracted. If all that people are seeing on their social media channels is that Irish whiskey is a bad bet , then how long will it be before it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and brands start to fail? Surely we in Ireland should be shouting it from the rooftops and supporting as many brands as we can. We should have a pride in the category that rivals the French and their beloved wines, but no,  instead it is a typical Irish response of fault finding and begrudgery that many are espousing.

I think some people fail to see the bigger picture at times, Yes,  not every whiskey released is a dream Cask (in fact some dream casks are not even dream casks), nor is every bottle released priced at a point that is made for everyone. That should not stop us from commending the distiller or the brand,  for the brave choice in creating the brand in the first place but also for creating something that everyone feels they are entitled to criticise with venom. Constructive criticism is a great thing, it helps businesses evolve and improve if they can hear it right, I know firsthand the progress you can make when people genuinely give input on how you can improve and make things better. I also know the despair and hurt that you can feel when people think it is their god given right to belittle you and abuse you, your staff, or your brand.

I think that if we are as serious about whiskey as many profess to be,  then we should call out the keyboard warriors and so-called experts when they are abusive or shit on a brand whether that be in public social media forums or in the many private chats that are out there. If you don’t call it out then how can things ever improve? As I have said from day 1 of I.W.A. a rising tide lifts all boats (even the ones with small leaks in them). The many benefits of a growing and supportive whiskey industry are manyfold, from the jobs it creates in the distilleries directly to the ancillary businesses such as farmers, couriers, packaging companies and so much more. Don’t forget also,  the many shops, delis, petrol stations and retailers where all those people spend their money. Then there are the tax benefits to our states, from the monies raised from the taxes and duties (they are higher than we would like) go towards,  in funding healthcare and all the other public services that we all need in our lives.

If the growth of Irish whiskey continues then we will outsell Scotch whisky in the USA by 2030, isn’t that something to rally behind and applaud? But these aspirations are not just the ramblings of a madman, they are real-world happenings. Pernod Ricard, the world’s second-largest wine and spirits seller is putting their money where their mouth is, with a €250million investment in Irish Whiskey by building a new distillery beside its current behemoth of a distillery in Midleton Co.Cork -which already features the worlds largest pot still and outputs over 60million litres of pure alcohol. Proximo, another not insignificant world-dominating spirits brand has recently completed the build on their new Causeway distillery because the Old Bushmills distillery will not be sufficient to meet the demands for Bushmills whiskey in the years to come. That shows a level of confidence that we are not showcasing at the minute!

Our own modern-day ‘Godfather of Irish Whiskey’, Mr John Teeling has only last year completed the addition of 6 new pot stills to the site at the great Northern Distillery here in da town hey. There are also plans in place for a new grain distillery on the site. Bacardi has completed the near 100% buyout of the Teeling distillery in Dublin, Sazerac recently completed the purchase of the Lough Gill distillery to become the brand home for Paddy (there is a lot more to come there too), rumours abound that other world-famous brands are trawling around to buy up Irish brands and perhaps distilleries in the quest to own and get a piece of the action in Irish whiskey….. I could go on but I hope you see my point.

All of these massive multinational companies have confidence in us why the hell do we not have confidence in the ones around us doing the do?


Anthony Sheehy