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Issue 94 - Ireland Eyes Expansion

Whisky Magazine Issue 94
March 2011


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Ireland Eyes Expansion

Ian Buxton visits a very bullish Midleton distillery

It's not so very long ago that Irish whiskey was down and all but out. A combination of factors had brought this once proud, world-leading industry to its knees. Some wounds were selfinflicted, some the result of external forces but the result was the same: Irish whiskey found itself little more than a curiosity, confined to its home market and a few ‘ethnic' expatriate corners, mainly in the USA.

Consumers had forgotten about it, or simply didn't care and, as a result, Scotch distillers didn't give Irish whiskey a second thought. It wasn't a factor in their planning.

Up until the late 1960s, the vast majority of Irish whiskey brands were traditional pot still whiskeys. The world's preference for lighter, more approachable whiskies led most of the remaining Irish distillers to adopt blended whiskeys as the primary style but, for a long time, it looked as if this was too little and too late. Irish whiskey had become a curiosity: something added to bad coffee in mid-market steak-house chains.

Right now, however, that's changing and changing fast, and Irish Distillers' mighty Midleton Distillery, near Cork, is a major part of the reason.

Today owned by Pernod Ricard, Irish Distillers was formed in 1966 by the merger of Cork Distillers, John Jameson & Co and John Powers. It was, quite frankly, something of a final throw by a dying industry that had been unwilling to embrace change or accept new realities in world markets.

But, if you're used to the boutique scale of many s...

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