Irish Distillers: limited edition releases must be ‘fair’

Irish Distillers insists its whiskeys are “made to be enjoyed”, but a growing demand for rare bottlings at auction is forcing the group to address how it launches limited edition expressions in a “fair” way.

According to the international marketing director at Irish Distillers, Brendan Buckley, one of the challenges facing the Irish whiskey category as it grows in popularity is creating a fair way for fans to buy limited releases.

“From our perspective, we produce our whiskeys to be enjoyed, not to be bought, hoarded and sold for profit,” Buckley said. “But it is inevitable for a product in a supply and demand market.

“For example, we launched Midleton Very Rare 30th Anniversary Pearl Edition in 2014, and we retailed it at €6,000. Now, it sells for double that price on the secondary market.

“You just have to look at auction activity. Ten years ago, we wouldn’t have seen Irish whiskeys appear at auction. Now, there’s a lot more activity. Midleton Very Rare is now one of those brands appearing consistently in auction houses.”

In order to cater for growing demand and to ensure “loyal consumers” are able to be in with the best chance of getting their hands on limited edition whiskeys, Buckley said the company has had to become increasingly imaginative in how its whiskeys are released.

He noted Redbreast as a prime example. In May this year, 924 bottles of Redbreast Dream Cask Pedro Ximénez Edition single pot still whiskey sold out in just 14 minutes.

It was made available exclusively to members of Redbreast’s online Birdhouse club – a move to ensure the whiskey reached “loyal” Redbreast fans.

“We have been saying to our loyal consumers, ‘how can we do this to make it fair for our loyal fans’?,” Buckley added. “We’re been trying to come up with a solution so that we can make special releases fair.”

Buckley also added he only sees the demand for Irish whiskey on the secondary market – particularly age statements – will continue into the future.

“If one looks at how the world of luxury spirits has developed there’s growing demand for Irish whiskey,” Buckley said. “As of 2019, there aren’t that many brands with big age statements on them. As more and more come to market, we’ll see more activity.

“In Scotch, there are lot of brands with high age statements, and as an industry, Irish whiskey is beginning to catch up in terms of having whiskeys of similar ages.”

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