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Irish whiskey is in a very interesting place at the moment with distilleries opening up left, right and centre them the greatest yield, not much more thought is put into the influence of barley. However, at Waterford the strapline is ‘Barley is King. Provenance is all’. Taking principles Reynier championed at Bruichladdich, Waterford have sourced 61 Irish farms that grow organic barley on 19 different soil types. Each farmer’s crop is harvested, stored, malted and distilled separately with an advanced digital logistics system. Every week, a different farm’s barley is milled, mashed and distilled. The only variable is the barley, with every other part of the production process being identical. As part of a wider study into the terroir of whisky – something Reynier has championed since his days at Bruichladdich – he is working with the Irish Department of Agriculture to produce hard scientific evidence that will prove once and for all that the concept of terroir exists in whiskey as it does in wine. The end result, after maturation, will be a unique series of ‘single’ single malt whiskeys. Reynier believes that now is the time to sort out the rules surrounding the labelling and marketing of Irish whiskey. Considering his track record with the SWA, he can’t believe that he is championing the need for more regulations. In his mind, it is the simplest thing to sort out; all that is needed is the equivalent of the SWA labelling requirements checklist. The Scotch Whisky Regulations 2009 clause 9.4 makes it illegal to ‘label, package, advertise or promote any Scotch Whisky in a way which is likely to deceive the public into thinking it has been distilled at any distillery other than the true distillery.’ Perhaps a clause like this is needed in Ireland too. Obviously, Reynier is keen to tap into the growing demand for Irish whiskey. In the first six months of 2017, exports of Irish whiskey increased by 18.5% year-on-year. In 2014, the Irish Whiskey Association set a goal of doubling exports from 72 million bottles to 144 million bottles by 2020 and it looks like they are well on their way to doing this. Irish whiskey sales broke the 100 million bottle mark for the first time in 2016 (over 1.2 billion bottles of Scotch whisky were exported in the same period). It looks like Irish whiskey is in a very interesting place at the moment, with new distilleries opening left, right and centre as well as new, independently-bottled brands appearing all the time. As Reynier says, it is important to get everything in order, as it’s for the greater good of the Irish whiskey industry, but only time will tell whether or not the Irish Whiskey Association wake up to the facts. If they don’t, the future of Irish whiskey could be at risk of repeating history and damaging the image of Irish whiskey once again.

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IRISH DISTILLERIES In 2013, there were four distilleries in operation and five visitor centres on the island. By 2016 there were 16 working distilleries and another 13 with planning permission and many more projects at various stages of planning. Distilleries are planned for 18 counties across Ireland, including: Antrim, Carlow, Cork, Donegal, Down, Dublin, Kerry, Kilkenny, Leitrim, Louth, Mayo, Meath, Offaly, Sligo, Tipperary, Waterford, Westmeath and Wicklow. With national and local government support, Irish whiskey tourism has the potential to grow from 653,277 visitors per annum to 1.9 million visitors by 2025, spending an estimated €1.3 billion. One quarter of visitors to Irish distilleries are American – Ireland’s highest spending tourists. Irish distilleries also attract significant numbers of German, British, French and other international visitors from its biggest export markets. Irish whiskey tourism is growing significantly faster than total overseas tourism in Ireland, increasing by two thirds since 2010. At one time Irish whiskey was the most popular spirit in the world. In 1779, there were 1,228 registered distilleries in Ireland – though this was slashed after an act of parliament was introduced to reform how the taxes payable on whiskey production were calculated. As a result, by 1790, this number had fallen to 246, and by 1821, there were just 32 licensed distilleries in operation.

09/11/2017 12:05:17

Cask & Still Magazine - Issue 6  

Behind the scenes in the Arctic Circle at the world's most northerly distillery. Also, the Irish whiskey industry is growing rapidly, but co...

Cask & Still Magazine - Issue 6  

Behind the scenes in the Arctic Circle at the world's most northerly distillery. Also, the Irish whiskey industry is growing rapidly, but co...

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