Spirits Around the World: Ireland

Jul 1, 2016 in Alcohol Beverage, Spirits Around the World, Startups

The Irish are known around the world for a strong brewing history (dating back 5,000 years) and incredible whiskeys. Monks began producing ale thousands of years ago, because hops were difficult to grow on Irish soil. One of the most famous Irish breweries, Guinness, opened in 1759. Its claim to fame came from the development of Irish dry stout, a dark and distinct beer made with roasted barley. Irish whiskey also captures significant attention. Pubs act as social hubs for many towns and cities and still do today. A welcoming and laid back atmosphere creates a friendly environment for everyone in the city, and the country’s long brewing history encourages the social acceptance of drinking. However, don’t expect to find happy hours anywhere in this country—they’re illegal.

Ireland Alcohol Industry

Ireland’s alcohol industry contributes over €2 billion to the country’s economy and employs 92,000 people, according to the Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland. Most production is centered heavily around well-established distilleries and breweries, with the Irish Spirits Association reporting 190 million bottles of spirits, 8.2 million cases of wine, and 850 liters of beer shipped annually. Craft breweries have a limited market share in Ireland, with 1.5 percent of sales. The industry flourishes in the international market, exporting 90 percent of its spirits and 50 percent of its beer. The most popular alcohol categories include Irish dry stout, Irish whiskey, and cream liquors. According to the IWSR’s predictions, Irish whiskey will rise another 3.9% between 2015 and 2020. The continued increase in popularity is largely rooted in U.S. consumption.

Prominent Players in the Irish Alcohol Industry

The Irish alcohol industry has several notable players controlling most of the leading brands originating from this country. Diageo controls 31 percent of spirits volume and 40 percent of beer. Bailey’s Irish Cream, the most popular cream liquor brand, filled a need for an Irish spirit with a worldwide appeal. Diageo also handles the Guinness brand, leading to an explainable dominance within the Irish market. Guinness creation Kilkenny is a cream ale with the signature Guinness nitrogenated head. Sheridan’s is yet another traditionally Irish liquor brand controlled by Diageo. This unique alcohol features a bottle with two sections, which allow the drinker to create a coffee, whiskey, and white chocolate liquor drink.

The combination of three major Irish whiskey manufacturers resulted in Irish Distillers. The founders wanted to boost the Irish whiskey market segment by combining their resources. They control the vast majority of Ireland’s Irish whiskey distilleries, with brands such as Jameson and Paddy counted among their holdings. Beam Suntory, Inc. acts as the other large Irish whiskey producer. It owns one of the oldest distilleries in the country, Kilbeggan, along with Greenore and Connemara.

Retail liquor sales come from off-license and on-license establishments. Off-license sellers include petrol stations, grocery stores, and liquor stores. O’Briens is one of the largest liquor store chains, with 32 stores throughout the country. This family-owned company started in 1944 as a grocery store but began expanding their alcohol selection in the 70s.

Ireland has a rich history filled with many types of spirits. Their alcohol market is strong, even while suffering from high taxes, and distinctive flavors make Ireland a famous country for excellent whiskey and beer.