Such impressive sales figures explain recent political interest in further developing Ireland’s growing whiskey sector. The past government’s 10 year strategy for the Irish Agri Food Sector placed particular focus on this emerging area and it is clearly energy well spent.
In the last few years, new brands of whiskey and other spirits are being unveiled throughout Ireland, particularly in the midlands and right along the wild atlantic way. The new wave of Irish distilleries provide opportunities for the manufacturing of luxury export goods and also as novel tourist attractions.
Due to the maturation period of whiskey (a minimum of 3 years), the distillery 'visitor centre' provides a much valued alternative revenue stream whilst the 'product' ages. The visitor centre can house product tastings, a quirky bar and even a unique space for corporate or private functions.
The majority of distilleries established in recent years hold two liquor licences – (a) a manufacturer’s licence and (b) a 7 day publican's on-licence. This is because in Ireland, in order to serve more than a mere 'tasting', a premises must hold a publican's seven day on-licence. Licensing a premises with a seven day on-licence is often regarded as an expensive process, however it can provide the most flexibility in terms of how a premises is used, options for retail and hours of trade. For more information on the steps in licensing a visitor centre with a seven day on-licence read my previous insight here.
The Intoxicating Liquor (Breweries and Distilleries) Bill 2016 aims to provide an alternative licensing option for brewers and distillers in Ireland. The Bill will allow for the sale of the product manufactured on site for consumption on or off the premises. However, sales can only be made to visitors admitted to the premises on guided tours and only until 6.00pm. Accordingly, although it may be a less expensive licensing option for smaller operators in the market, the licence under the Bill may prove too prohibitive for larger outfits. Pending clarification as to whether the Distiller/Brewer licence will be permitted to apply for special exemptions, the option of the 7 day on-licence may be the more suitable option for those who wish to operate a full bar in their visitor centre during later hours.
For more information on the Breweries and Distilleries Bill read my previous insight here.
Global sales of Irish whiskey and Irish cream liquor totalled nearly 16 million cases in 2016, and were worth nearly €4 billion in sales value, according to the Irish Spirits Association (ISA).