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20th May 2019 “It’s not a niche market anymore,” how social media stirred up Irish whiskey

Have a read of our recent feature in Joe.ie in celebration on World Whisky Day 2019

US sales of Irish whiskey have more than doubled since 2013.

Last year, we spoke to John Fleming of Carry Out Off Licence in Killarney about the Irish whiskey revolution. Just like with Irish craft beer and gin, he expected things to only get better as time went on.

Fast forward to 2019, and it certainly looks like John was absolutely bang on. We’re making a mark all over the world, with figures from the Distilled Spirits Council that over $1 billion in sales was generated in the US alone last year.

Compare that to $74 million in 2003, and you suddenly realise how much things are changing. Ahead of World Whisky Day this coming Saturday, 18 May, we spoke to John again about what’s going on in the Irish whiskey world.

Nothing happens overnight, but a major culture change was needed for Irish whiskey to appeal to a younger generation. With the help of social media and a plethora of online bloggers, it’s a lot easier for people to delve into whiskey in a way that was never possible before.

“When I was growing up, whiskey was seen as the kind of middle-aged, gentleman’s drink, you know? But it’s kind of opened up to a lot of markets; male and female, young and old, there’s something there for everybody.

“It’s not a niche market anymore,” John said.

The age of the internet

One of the biggest changes that has come about since the internet and social media is how quickly exclusive whiskies get snapped up. Gone are the days when a handful of people in the know would get their hands on bottles, now John said that people from all over the world are bidding on Irish whiskies within minutes of them being released.

“Last year for World Whisky Day, Redbreast released 32 year-old whiskey Dream Casks, aged in Oloroso casks. It was the first time this was ever done, 800 plus bottles of 500ml whiskey was released at four o’clock Irish time, which meant it opened it up to Ireland, Europe, Asia, and Australia.

“I think after six hours, every single bottle was sold out. €500 per bottle, bottles have since been sold for between €1,000 and €1,500 per bottle,” John said.

He did say to expect something similar to happen this year, so sign up to the Redbreast mailing list if it’s something that interests you. Whether you want to simply have something in the cabinet for special occasions or just as an investment, it would definitely be worth looking into.

While such exclusive whiskies are of course a great indicator of how popular Irish whiskey is, John said that much of what makes it so appealing is how it can be enjoyed by just about everyone. There has been a growing interest on sites like YouTube around discussing and sampling new kinds of whiskey, with really detailed reviews available to anyone with a smartphone.

He said that whiskey lovers are definitely something of a family online, with many people now using social media to talk about whiskey in great detail.

“Being able to access so much information at the click of a button is just phenomenal. Pot Still Will down in Wexford is a really good guy, he’s got more pot still whiskey in Ireland than any other collector in the world, an absolute gentleman altogether.

Pot Still Will

“Between your Instagram, your Facebook, and your Twitter, it’s bringing people of all ages in forming a community. And this is where the information is,” John said.

John said that Irish whiskey’s success in the States last year won’t be a once-off either. As he said himself, “it’s going to keep breaking records.”

It’s hard to argue with that.

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