The explosion of Irish Gin.

Denise Murphy, sector manager for drinks at Bord Bia tells us about the explosion of Irish Gin  plus ames and stories of some of the best gin distilleries in the Republic of Ireland.

The Irish alcohol beverage category has enjoyed a significant period of growth in the period from 2010 to 2017. The growth has been underpinned by increased demand for Irish whiskey globally driven by a rise in middle class consumers in emerging markets. The trend towards premium products, the increase in dedicated outlets for individual categories- whiskey and gin bars in particular and in some markets, a swing away from some stalwarts of the spirits category towards new and exciting offerings in Irish whiskey and in gin have also made a significant contribution to the growth.

According to IWSR, premium gin enjoyed CAGR of more than 9% globally between 2010 and 2015. Continent specific, the growth was most significant in the Americas where it achieved 4.4%, but from a high base to reach 2.9m 9litre cases, an increase of more that ½ million cases on 2010. From a much lower base, consumption of premium gin in Europe has grown by more than 240% from 771k cases to more that 1,850k cases during the same period.

Gin has always been produced in Ireland, however the rise in the number of gin distilleries in the country in recent years has been nothing short of phenomenal. The reasons behind the growth have evolved somewhat. Demand for Irish whiskey has generated a flurry of new distillery openings. However as we all know, Irish whiskey is a long game, with returns on investment not expected for a minimum of 5 years, more realistically 8-10 years and considerably longer with vintage offerings. In recent years, some new distilleries initially introduced white spirit offerings in the form of poitin, vodka and gin in order to bridge that revenue gap. As the category evolved and the opportunity within the premium gin segment became clear, more investment was made in product development, a broader spectrum of offerings became available and a new swathe of dedicated gin distilleries came on line.

The Irish Gin ‘collection’ consisted of just one offering prior to 2010. At the time of writing, there are 13 gin distilleries in the Republic of Ireland producing some of the finest gins in the world. What follows is a non-exhaustive list of the gin distilleries in the RoI. The earliest of these is Dingle Gin, produced by the Dingle Distillery in Co. Kerry.

Blackwater Distillery in Waterford distils a range of gins including its original Blackwater No 5. This is joined by Juniper Gin aged in juniper casks, Wexford Strawberry Gin, Boyle’s Gin named after Robert Boyle, the founding father of modern chemistry, and the latest family member- Hedgerow Gin, which denotes the origin of the many botanicals and berries handpicked to produce it.

St Patricks Distillery in Cork  has a range of potato-based gins including Patrick’s Extra Dry Gin, made with Lady Claire and Rosetta potatoes, Elderflower Gin, classic Juniper Gin and Sloe & Honey Gin.

Ballyvolane House in Cork is now also home to a gin distillery, and the brand now known as Bertha’s Revenge. Bertha was a cow from Kerry, famous for her prolific calving history having birthed 39 calves in her lifetime and thanked with an entry into the Guinness Book of Records.  Bertha’s Revenge is produced from whey alcohol and a mix of local wild and grown botanicals. The range consists of Bertha’s Revenge Irish Milk Gin and Sloe Bertha, a sloe gin infused with sloe berries from the local environment.

There are some very interesting gin projects underway in Ireland which incorporate more than the distillery itself. The most notable of these is the Listoke Gin School and Distillery. The Listoke Distillery is situated among the beautiful grounds of Listoke House in Co Louth. While the distillery produces exceptional gin infused with botanicals grown on the estate and collected in the wild, the Gin School offers another added element of attraction. The school welcomes small groups or individuals who wish to spend the day distilling, foraging, infusing, bottling and even designing,  printing and applying labels to their own gin to take away at the end of the day!

The Irish supply chain is broad and diverse and providing superb options within the category, however it is still is in its infancy on a global scale and has a lot more to offer heading into the future.