NOT Caught in the Tartan Trap: Why Irish Whiskey is Poised To Fly Even Higher Than Scotch (IMHO)

Gold Medal Blended 60 or more

Still Buzzing Over This!

Alrighty folks!  There is a lot going on here at Chapel Gate Towers. Our first release The Gael is doing really well and getting great feedback since it won its Gold Medal in the Irish Whiskey Awards. We are smashing it now in Germany and we are gearing up for a very exciting U.S. launch. Blaise is over in the U.S.A. embedding with our importer orders are coming in and we are go-go-go for launch. I’m putting in planning for our Blending and bottling facility next week and working on some very, very exciting collaborations for 2018. We are firing on all cylinders now and are just out  of the gate and actually trading! Its been two long hard years and the crazy thing is that the work is only now beginning.

I did have some disturbing news recently due to a notification received a week or two ago. It has woken me pretty consistently now every night at 3AM and taken up a lot of my time mentally and practically. I’m hoping I can find a good solution for it, but I am really saddened by what it means in the context of our category and the burgeoning camaraderie within it. That is a post for another time or maybe never, I need to see if I can find a solution and make the issue right my end or fundamentally work toward changing it for the good of the category.


Sorry Can you Speak Up? I can’t hear you over the Tartan

It is that very category that I want to talk about. I realised something about it last weekend. I was with our German distributor at a Whiskey Festival in Bavaria. We were sampling The Gael to hard core whiskey fans, the kind of people who pay good money to go to a Whiskey festival for an entire day and just revel in the stories and the flavours. The kind of people it is a pleasure to meet, because they don’t pull punches, if your whiskey is bad or good they will tell you to your face. These kind of people are very important to me, they allow me to understand how we are doing in terms of our quality and that level of in-depth and highly educated consumer feedback is invaluable as we develop our product line.  Our German partner specialises exclusively in Irish Whiskey and some other Irish spirits. The festival, as many whiskey festivals are, was very heavily Scotch dominated. By that I mean there were probably close to 1500 Scotch variants on offer by the various vendors and distributors but there were only about 15-20 Irish.


There Can Be Only One

The entire event venue was covered in Tartan of various kinds, in addition to a bit of heather here and there. There were quite a few attendees sporting full Highland regalia, sporrans, Kilts, and those long white socks included. Some ladies were proudly wearing various clan tartans. Remember we were in Bavaria….It all felt very Braveheart both in terms of imagery and iconography and I suppose that is sort of the point for Scotch.

They cemented this sort of Highland oldie worldie imagery back in the 70’s and they have been pretty consistent with it since. They have organisations that celebrate it like the Keepers of the Quaich and I remember spending many a fun evening at the former Diageo owned Drummiur Castle, a mecca for whiskey lovers, where we all ate haggis and wore, you guessed it, tartan for dinner. It is powerful imagery for sure and it is single minded, but you know what? I am glad that we in the Irish Category are not tied to the Irish version of that. New  and old Scotch producers are trying to wrestle free from that platform, but their older skewing consumers are hanging on to it. I did not see anyone under 35 in a kilt at that whiskey weekend in Bavaria, but I did see a LOT of people under 35 exploring and enjoying whiskey on their own terms.


And I would Walk 500 Miles!!!

This is why I think as a re-awakening category we have an advantage over Scotch. We are not tied to Miserable Mother Ireland imagery when it comes to Whiskey and nor should we try to place ourselves there. Most of the new guard are forging their own paths in their own way focusing on provenance yes, because it matters, but doing it in a way that is not pastiche or, well, Diddildy I Di.. We are fortunate the Technical File has allowances for some kinds of innovative thinking, I’ve heard tell of IStills being used here for example, a pretty amazing piece of kit and very progressive in its thinking. It is more difficult in Scotland.  Innovation, beyond new cask finishes, is going to be a big part of Irish Whiskey as the category grows. Our positioning will evolve over time and I have every confidence it won’t for the most part manifest itself in leprechauns and lucky charms.


Oh Danny Boy, the Pipes, The Pipes

The Whiskey category has changed, its consumers have changed and here in Ireland we are re-emerging at just the right time to embrace that change and grow exponentially as a result. Its super exciting times in the Irish category and its future.  The internet and the availability and desire for instant product information allows consumers to be a part of the discussion around how our category is shaped. We should embrace that as a category its inevitable and its the right thing to do.

Scotch will probably spend the next few years trying to fight its way out of a tartan box and that means more market share for us to take.   We just need to be true to our modern selves and be reactive rather than dictative  to what this evolving market wants and we’ll be poised to do even better than predicted.

Onwards and upwards folks, onwards and upwards! Its such a privilege to be part of this category right now and so exciting to see it evolve. Great things are afoot and ahead.



2 thoughts on “NOT Caught in the Tartan Trap: Why Irish Whiskey is Poised To Fly Even Higher Than Scotch (IMHO)

  1. Interesting take, though here in the US I believe that there is a certain, shall we say, “mystique” to Irish whiskey. Even some that may pass as marginal in taste, gain an extra”star” because people conjur a relationship to the mother country. I believe that attempting to leave that behind, or downplay it, is a mistake. The “Miserable Mother Ireland” is probably something to be embraced at more of a level than you believe or anticipate. The entire whiskey/whisky category over here is close, in my opinion, to being saturated. You make a great product…I tried it when I was there this summer…and am eagerly awaiting it to make the journey across the ocean. I wish you the best if luck. Mike Kelly, Freeland, MI USA


    • I don’t think people will leave it behind nor should they, provenance is very important, it helps to differentiate us. I guess my point is we are not locked into a specific way of communicating around it and there is a freedom there that will allow us to appeal to a wider fan base. Glad you liked it! Formal release is set for Feb in the USA, possibly a little later in MI.


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