What is your background briefly?
Bernard is a farmer’s son from Tipperary and Rosemary a farmer’s daughter from Carlow. We came up with the idea of a concentrate mix for making Irish coffee, styled as The Hot Irishman, which we originally developed in our home kitchen and went into business with in 1999.
Does it seem a logical path to what you do now?
The pathway has been very logical. In the early years of the millennium international sales of irish whiskey began to grow strongly and saw the potential potential of whiskey, the key ingredient in The Hot Irishman, as a stand alone product in its own right. By 2006 we were producing and selling The Irishman – Founder’s Reserve premium whiskey and we haven’t looked back.
1 min pitch for your Whiskey?
Our triple-distilled whiskeys are all guaranteed to provide you with quality above and beyond their reasonable price points. Our two whiskey brands, The Irishman and Writers’ Tears, offer eight distinctive whiskeys between them with an emphasis on the recipes and ways of the 19th century, the golden era for Irish whiskey. These include Single Malts of varying finishes and age statements, unique blends of pot still and single malt and cask strength finishes. Don’t take our word for it, some of the most notable retailers on the planet have selected our whiskeys, from Harrod’s (The Irishman 17 Year Old Single Cask Single Malt); to Marks & Spencer (Writers’ Tears – Copper Pot); to Lufthansa 1st Class Lounges (The Irishman 12 Year Old Single Malt), to name but a few.
How do we avoid the potential pitfalls for the Irish whiskey Renaissance?
We must focus collectively on quality, quality, quality in everything we do. From the whiskey to the tourism to the information we make available…but most of all the whiskey. We make wonderful whiskey in this country and the world is interested in it again but we have no right to expect that interest to hold unless we build on what has been revitalised and achieved in the last 20 years of this second golden era. We are competing with other big whiskey nations and emerging ones like Japan. We are also competing with other drinks and spirits in particular. We must uphold a commitment to quality or the world will move on. That is why the Irish Whiskey Association’s mentoring programme is so important whereby new entrants can learn from established distilleries. We also must deepen and broaden the availability and range of Irish whiskey. There are in the region of 100 Irish whiskeys to try – but there are 2,000 different versions of Scotch. If newly won international consumers are to stay interested in Irish whiskey they need a broad category to keep their interest – a bit like wine, beer and Scotch does.
— Walsh Whiskey (@WalshWhiskey) May 8, 2017
What is the potential of whiskey tourism – locally and nationally?
We are going from a situation where we had just 3 working distilleries on the island a couple of years ago, to one where there will soon be 30. There will be a variety of distilleries in urban and rural, inland and coastal settings stretching to almost every county on the island. So straight away that means that people interested in whiskey are more compelled to visit and people interested in Ireland have another reason to visit, or another thing to do when on their visit to Ireland. The Irish whiskey association estimates that the number of whiskey tourists to Ireland will treble by 2025 to just under 2 million people spending €1.3 billion annually. That os just 8 years away and we can push on from there..
Is Asia – the next big frontier for Irish whiskey?
Asia with its massive markets is the Irish whiskey producer’s Everest. China and India between them account for one third of the world’s 7.5 billion people. Their societies are becoming more affluent and Irish whiskey can be among the super premium goods that the burgeoning middle classes adopt. But there are very significant with cultural and taste differences not to mention local and international competition. But if Irish whiskey can crack these markets it will have a significant impact on the irish economy over time. South America and South Africa are two other regions that also have significant potential.
What is your mission now that you are 18 years in whiskey business, but just 1 year as a distiller and still in the foothills of a very long-tailed business?
We have come so far in many ways, we export to 40 markets from as far apart as Japan to the US and from the Nordics to New Zealand, yet we are just starting out in terms of controlling our own distillation activity. It is at once both a marathon and a sprint as many more companies of all shapes and sizes are joining the sector. We recognise that, in real terms, the whiskey business is a true marathon which, if done properly, can continue to evolve in decades and even centuries to come. We are carrying the torch and hope that future generations of our family will take over from us. All we can do is hope to leave a legacy of whiskey excellence that is both good for Walsh Whiskey and the wider Irish whiskey sector.
— Walsh Whiskey (@WalshWhiskey) May 10, 2017
What are your tips for the best way to drink Whiskey?
First and foremost, suit yourself! Whiskey is part of your leisure time, so spend it as you like it. As a drink it is very flexible. It can be drunk neat, with varying quantities of water or ice and it is a wonderful core ingredient for a great spectrum of cocktails to suit any occasion or season – there are virtually no limits to how you can enjoy whiskey.
What can we look forward to from your company?
With our distillery at Royal Oak now a year into production, we will be expanding our range of whiskeys in the next few years. We will also be innovating across the production process from the type of barley we use, to the type of oak we mature our whiskeys in be they casks from Spain, Italy, France, the Caribbean or the USA. Two innovations coming through are some commemorative editions of The Irishman and Writers’ Tears based on barley sourced from farms near the distillery that have wonderful historical significance. In 2020 we will bottle a special edition of Writers’ Tearsmade with barley from Dean Jonathan Swift’s family farm. We will also produce a special, limited edition bottling ofThe Irishman made with barley from the field of the Keogh family whose great-uncle, Captain Myles Keogh, went to fight in the American civil war on the Union side, and who fought at Gettysburg and died with at the battle of Little Big Horn in 1876.
Anything else we should have asked?
The Walsh Whiskey Distillery at Royal Oak is open for daily tours where you can observe, smell and taste the process of hand-crafted, Irish whiskey distilling. Located just 75 minutes from Dublin and 20 minutes from Kilkenny, the distillery is built on a peaceful 19th century estate, right on the River Barrow, with a large country house dating to 1755. See walshwhiskey.com