We may be in a Scotch drought, but Irish whiskey is doing just fine. In fact, it’s flourishing. According to The Spirits Business, high-end Irish whiskey sales have grown 589 percent since 2002, earning $664 million in the U.S. just last year.
For a very long time, the only Irish whiskeys you could reliably find in the country were Jameson or Powers or maybe Paddy’s if you knew where to look. And you wouldn’t have ever even thought to specify any sort of age when it came to a bottle. Now, there’s a plethora of Irish whiskey brands to choose from ranging from the bright and fruity Knappogue Castle to the spicy Redbreast, and within every brand a selection of age levels and barrel finishes. Since 2002, the premium Irish whiskey market grew 3,054 percent.
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According to Stephen Teeling, sales and marketing director of Teeling Whiskey Company, Irish whiskey’s familiarity and unchallenging flavors helped the spirit grow into new audiences. “It’s seen as a much easier entry point into brown spirits than, say, Scotch,” he told The Spirits Business. “They say in America that Irish whiskey and bourbon are more social at the bar—Scotch is more pipe and slippers by the fire.” Bartender JP Fetherston agrees. “Irish whiskey has exploded in the U.S. in large part due to the fact that it’s very familiar to most American drinkers and is now expanding in terms of different expressions,” he said.