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Irish Whiskey Trending Up, and Not Just for St. Pat's Day

Hot & Cool Trends

By Cari Martens


St. Patrick’s Day has acquired a reputation as a drinking holiday, but the funny thing about it is, many of the beverages associated with the holiday are of the novelty variety. You’ve got your green beer and your black & tan—and your shamrock shakes, of all things.

But there’s nothing ‘novelty’ about a good Irish whiskey. And although many of us probably don’t think about Irish whiskey except at this time of year, the amber libation from the Emerald Isle has been selling quite well of late. As noted by Jason Wilson, writing for the Washington Post, sales of Irish whiskey were up 10 percent last year while the rest of the spirits market was mostly flat. That’s on the heels of an 18 percent sales increase for Irish whiskies in 2009. Wilson suggests that the bump in sales likely comes from the whiskey drinker who’s searching for real value.

Christina Cheddar Berk, news editor for CNBC, says Irish whiskey has been one of the fastest-growing spirits categories over the past few years. Berk believes the favorable trend is due to a dedicated push to support the brands and tap into the increased willingness of consumers to experiment with whiskies. The smoothness of Irish whiskey makes it an approachable choice for someone who’s not tried brown spirits before.

Just three distilleries in Ireland produce most of the Irish whiskey brands, led by Bushmills in Northern Ireland, which claims to be the world’s oldest active distillery, dating back to 1608. The New Middleton Distillery in County Cork produces Jameson, Redbreast and Powers brands, and Cooley Distillery in County Louth makes Connemara, Tyrconnell, and a new brand, John L. Sullivan.

In his Post story, Wilson mentions what he considers a misguided aspect of Irish whiskey loyalty that splits along partisan lines. Some older Irish Americans will drink only Jameson because it’s considered the ‘Catholic’ whiskey, rather than Bushmills, perceived to be the ‘Protestant’ whiskey. Wilson says it’s a lot of ‘bunk,’ but the perception lingers on like the kick from a shot of, well, good Irish whiskey.

I will wholeheartedly agree with another comment Wilson makes in his article: It’s probably wise to avoid discussing religion and politics while drinking whiskey, Irish or otherwise.

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