Wednesday 16 October 2013

Walsh Whiskey Distillery

I haven't seen Bernard Walsh, founder of The Irishman and Writers Tears whiskey brands, around of late. At Whisky Live I asked brand manager, Shane Fitzharris, if Bernard was busy working on a new distillery but his perfect poker face wasn't giving anything away.

The cat's out of the bag now though. From the press release:
In early spring 2014, Walsh Whiskey Distillery will submit a planning application for the development of a distillery, maturing warehouses and a visitor centre on 40 acres of pastoral land bounded on one side by the River Barrow at Royal Oak in Carlow. The estate includes an 18th century country house that will be restored as part of the development plan. 
The plan is for the distillery, with capacity to produce 400,000 cases annually, to become operational in 2016. It will have two production lines using both pot stills and column stills which will facilitate Walsh Whiskey Distillery producing all four types of Irish whiskey, namely; pot, malt and grain and blended. The distillery will also have the capacity to distil whiskey under contract for selected private labels most of whom have no means of production. 
The planned distillery visitor centre will cater for 75,000 'whiskey tourists' by 2021.
It's a €25m investment, with significant funding coming from family-owned Italian drinks company, Illva Saronno Holding S.p.A., based in Saronno, near Milan:
Illva Saronno’s CEO, Mr Augusto Reina, travelled from Milan with several of his colleagues to attend the announcement in Dublin. With 17th century origins, Illva Saronno’s portfolio is led by Disaronno, the world’s second largest premium liqueur, and Tia Maria. It also includes Artic Vodka, Isolabella Sambuca, Zucca, and Aurum and Sicilian Wines Duca di Salaparuta, Corvo and Florio among others. These brands are distributed in 160 countries worldwide. Illva also has a significant interest in China’s largest winery, Changyu, and a growing foothold in India, the world’s largest whiskey market (280 million cases annually).
There is some interesting info on the senior team at Walsh Whiskey Distillery...
Founded in 1999 by husband and wife, Bernard and Rosemary Walsh from Carlow, over 14 years they have built a range of international award winning drinks brands including a portfolio of six Irish whiskeys under The Irishman and Writers Tears brands, the Hot Irishman Irish coffee and The Irishman Irish Cream liqueur. 
In addition to the founders, Walsh Whiskey Distillery has built a highly experienced Board and advisory team comprising seasoned executives from the global wine and spirits sector, including:
  • Pat Rigney (Managing Director of Fastnet Brands Ltd and Chairperson of The Dalcassian Wine & Spirits Company; founder of Boru Vodka Company and formerly of  Baileys Irish Cream where he was a leader in the development of the Baileys brand and the creator of Sheridans liqueur); 
  • John Kickham (Group Managing Director of J. Donohoe Beverages Limited, one of the leading beverage importation, wholesale, distribution and manufacturing group of companies in Ireland); 
  • John Chamney (a former C&C International director who played a key role in the development of Tullamore Dew taking it from number 5 to be the number two Irish whiskey brand in the world) and Carolans, the number 2 Irish Cream Liqueur.
... and on the current and projected markets for Walsh whiskey brands:
...the Walsh Whiskey leadership team has overseen revenue growth of 300% in the last 5years. With 95% of sales generated by exports, the Walsh Whiskey Distillery Irish whiskeys are distributed in 30 countries. Five key markets currently account for 70% of sales, these are: the United States, Russia, Scandinavia, France and Germany. In partnership with Illva Saronno and its existing distribution partners, the company plans to gradually expand its network taking in major Asian markets, including India and China, where Illva has significant operations. In anticipation of this expansion the company undertook a comprehensive brand audit earlier this year with the support of Bord Bia.
There is something new here: a multinational drinks company portfolio that includes Irish whiskey brands but not Scotch. Irish whiskey hasn't seen much action in China and India, I suspect because other multinationals prefer to spearhead their efforts there with Scotch blends. I look forward to Irish whiskey gaining more of a profile in those markets.

I wish the best of luck to Bernard and Rosemary Walsh, and to the staff of the Walsh Whiskey Distillery. They have already given us some of the best Irish whiskeys of the last ten years. Here's to many more!