Capitalising on the revived fortunes of Irish whiskey, Pernod Ricard’s Irish Distillers group is making impressive headway under CEO Anna Malmhake.
These are headline-grabbing times for Irish whiskey, which once outperformed scotch and bourbon on the global scale before falling behind throughout the course of the 20th century. Leading the revival is Irish Distillers, the largest whiskey producer in the country, responsible for Jameson, Paddy and Powers. The group is owned by Pernod Ricard, and local and international brands such as Cork Dry Gin, Absolut, Huzzar, Martell and Malibu are also part of the drinks giant’s portfolio.
The sector’s growth has been particularly good news for the Jameson brand. In September, the group announced that it had reached a significant milestone: it now sells 5m cases of Jameson worldwide every year. The brand’s growth was illustrated by the fact that it was selling as few as 500,000 cases a year back in 1996, and the company predicts a continuation of what it calls a “phenomenal trajectory” with “astronomical growth prospects”. It recently doubled production capacity in its world-renowned Midleton, Co Cork base, and expects further increases in capacity over the coming years.
The group also opened a new microdistillery at Midleton, to be run by Karen Cotter, graduate of the company’s graduate programme in distilling, with the support of master distiller Brian Nation. The facility will also act as a tourist attraction: the success of the Old Jameson Distillery in Dublin, not to mention the rival Guinness Storehouse, underlines the importance of this sector of tourism.
Chairman and CEO Anna Malmhake officially opened the microdistillery on September 15th, joined by Tánaiste Joan Burton. It will produce 400 casks of whiskey every year. “These will be innovative, small batch whiskeys which will play a key role in the future of Irish whiskey development,” explained Malmhake. “Our archivist recently uncovered a notebook personally used by John Jameson II in 1826 which he used to take note of special recipes and ingredient mixes used by the original Jameson distillers. The microdistillery will enable us to bring these old Irish whiskeys back to life in the modern era, as well as experiment and innovate with new ingredients mixes.
“In addition, it will be a key feature of the Jameson Experience Midleton. We currently welcome over 410,000 tourists per year to the Old Jameson Distillery in Dublin and the Jameson Experience Midleton. As Irish whiskey tourism continues its rapid expansion, it is essential that we develop our tourist offering so they get an authentic, Irish experience.”
There was further good news in June, with the announcement of a €17m expansion at the Irish Distillers bottling plant at Fox and Geese in Clondalkin, west Dublin. By 2017 the facility’s capacity will have increased from the current 5m nine-litre cases to 7.5m cases: 120m bottles of Jameson per year. Last year it bottled just over half of that figure. “This is part of a wider investment programme which saw €200 million expansion of our distillery in Midleton and our maturation facility in Dungourney, Co Cork,” said Malmhake.
“Irish Distillers’ portfolio of brands has been growing by double-digits for the last 20 years and we are continuously investing in our operations to keep pace with demand. Our long-term vision is for Irish whiskey to regain its place as the biggest whiskey category in the world. Investing in critical infrastructure such as the Fox and Geese bottling facility will enable us to realise that vision.”
About the CEO
Swede Anna Malmhake, chairman and chief executive of Irish Distillers Pernod Ricard, took on the role in 2011. A marketing expert, her career began at Procter & Gamble in 1991, before moving on to Coca-Cola, Motorola, consultancy firm Temo, and Coca-Cola again. She joined Absolut Vodka in 2007, becoming global brand director before moving to Ireland.
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