Everyone’s Irish today, and like good Irishmen, many will dutifully be imbibing Irish whiskey. Calls for the spirit spike around the St. Patrick’s Day holiday, but Irish whiskey is holding strong to its designation as the fastest-growing spirits category. Its rate of expansion appears to have slowed, but the growth is off a larger base; the spirit’s been on a roll since well before the latest whiskey boom began, and our projections include another double-digit volume gain in 2015. But the marketplace and the consumer is different today, so capturing more than a wee dram of that volume now requires a broader selection of brands and styles on the back bar and the menu.
- One-quarter (24%) of consumers enjoy Irish whiskey in a mixed drink on-premise once a month or more often; one-fifth (19%) do so straight or as a shot, according to our BarTAB
- Women’s consumption of Irish whiskey is rising; 20% enjoyed the spirit in a mixed drink in a restaurant or bar in 2014 as compared with 16% who said the same the prior year.
- Two-fifths (42.3%) of Irish whiskey volume occurs in restaurants and bars, a considerably larger share than of any other spirits category, meaning that the on-premise channel is extremely important to Irish whiskey marketers.
- Product innovation abounds as suppliers expand distillery capabilities and issue new aged expressions, while new distilleries come on line. A full spectrum of styles and price points brings the category to a “something for everyone” position: Single malt expressions appeal to Scotch drinkers while single grain renditions attract bourbon fans, and flavored Irish whiskeys add to that segment’s options. Un-aged poitin, also known as Irish moonshine, brings another element to the category.
Leveraging the spirit’s approachable taste profile and mixability, as well as the increasing number of more complex expressions, can insure Irish whiskey maintains momentum well after the plastic green bowler hats are retired and you’ve swept the tiny shamrock confetti off the floor.
This blog post originally appeared in the Monday, March 16, edition of the VIBE e-newsletter.