Michael Scully interview

1. How significant is the Russian market for whiskey producers?

It is an important market. Irish whiskey sales in Russia grew 20% in the past 3 years. We attribute this extraordinary growth to innovative work by whiskey producers and brand ambassadors who are getting Irish whiskey stocked and promoted in bars and off-licences in Russia, and around the world.

2. In your opinion, what Irish whiskeys should be drunk more in Russia (blend/single-malt)

We always say there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to drink whiskey. Nor is there a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ type of whiskey to drink. That’s the magic of whiskey, it’s down to your personal preference. At Clonakilty Distillery we produce a range of whiskeys to suit a variety of palates.

3. What trend do you see in the development of Irish whiskey in the world in 2020?

Predicting any drinks trends is difficult. It seems, that the Irish whiskey trend is likely to be – MORE OF EVERYTHING.

More rare releases, more limited editions, more awareness of sustainability and authenticity.

The mixology market will also continue to grow. As Irish whiskey tends to be smoother than Scotch or bourbon, it is proving a popular choice among mixologists and cocktail specialists. Many bartenders in New York, where some of the most talented mixologists work, for example, are using Clonakilty Single Batch, Double Oak whiskey.

We also foresee more innovation in the production process. For example, at Clonakilty Distillery we introduced a gentle cut process, where the whiskey alcohol level (ABV) is slowly brought down to bottling strength over a 2-week period. We are the only Irish distillery using this practice, and were inspired by similar practices within the Cognac Industry.

4. In your opinion, will there be a territorial division of Irish whiskey producers like in Scotland? (Speyside: Highland; Lowland; Islay).

No, it is unlikely. However, we could begin to see producers differentiating themselves by the quality of their local assets. For example, maritime distilleries like Clonakilty Distillery are beginning to curve out a strong identity by their proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, which infuses our product and branding.

5. Is there any plan to develop a unified style in the specific territory of Ireland?

The unified style for Ireland tends to be Single Pot Still Irish whiskey.

6. Does the Irish Technical File protect the interests of producers, will this document be clearer and stricter?

Irish whiskey is protected under technical laws by a geographical indicator which clearly states that to be classified as Irish whiskey the spirit most be produced and matured in casks for three years and a day, on the Island of Ireland. The Irish Whiskey Association is very active in relation to dealing with breaches and have already taken action against fake producers.

7. How can the consumer understand the type of Irish whiskey, and whether it's a blend of malt spirit or grain (Single Malt and Single Pot Still), if it's not shown on the label?

Single Pot Still whiskey is illustrated on the label, as are Single Malts. If neither classification is present then it is most likely a blend.

We feel the practice of putting age statements on whiskey is a little old fashioned. Legally you have to use the lowest age on the bottle, if you are displaying age statements. So, for example if you have a blend of a 10-year-old whiskey and a 5-year-old whiskey, it would have to state 5 years on the bottle. Yet, this is unlikely to represent the premium quality of the whiskey. Often younger and older whiskeys are blended together in order to achieve a premium taste profile. This is the case with Clonakilty Single Batch Double Oak and Clonakilty Port Cask Whiskey which consists of a blend of a four to twelve-year-old malt and ten-year-old grain.

8. How can you tell the age of a whiskey, if there is no information on the label?

You can’t.

9. Why does the manufacturer not show the types of spirits and from which distilleries the whiskey is produced from?

For trademark purposes distilleries cannot display this information. Irish blends will always be a mixture of malt and grain whiskey.


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