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New €25m distillery for Irish whiskey producer

Walsh Whiskey Distillery, producer of The Irishman and Writerṣ Tears Irish whiskey brands, is to receive financial backing from Illva Saronno, the Italian wine and spirits company to facilitate a €25million expansion programme.

The new distillery will have capacity for 400,000 cases annually.

Illva Saronno is investing in the Irish whiskey market through a partnership with the family-owned Walsh Whiskey Distillery based in Carlow in Ireland. Demand for the distillery’s The Irishman and Writerṣ Tears super-premium and ultra-premium brands, launched in 2006 and 2009 respectively, has fuelled a 300% increase in revenues in the last five years.

With growth in global demand for Irish whiskey predicted to remain strong over the long term, Illva Saronno’s investment will allow Walsh Whiskey Distillery to expand significantly with: a new, independent, craft Irish whiskey distillery with capacity for 400,000 cases annually; increased distribution network from 30 to over 100 countries – including India and China; increased warehouse capacity of 1.9 million 9 litre cases; stock building of aged whiskeys; and a unique distillery visitor experience by the banks of the River Barrow in Royal Oak, County Carlow, Ireland.

With 17th century origins, Illva Saronno’s portfolio is led by Disaronno, the world’s second largest premium liqueur and Tia Maria. These brands are distributed in over 160 countries worldwide. Illva also has a significant interest in China’s largest winery, Changyu, and a growing foothold in India, the world’s largest whiskey market. Illva Saronno’s CEO Augusto Reina, travelled from Milan with several of his colleagues to attend the announcement in Dublin.

He said:"We are extremely delighted to announce the partnership with Walsh Whiskey Distillery today. With this investment, not only will Illva gain production capacity and expertise in a fast growing sector such as that of Irish whiskey - which is already showing remarkable growth rates and is expected to grow up to 12 million cases within the next 5 years – but it will also enable Walsh Whiskey Distillery to lean on Illva as a leading business developer both in Italy and abroad.”

Founder of Walsh Whiskey Distillery, Bernard Walsh added: “We are delighted to be expanding our business due to strong demand for our premium Irish whiskey brands which are crafted in the best tradition of 19th century Irish whiskey distilling. We are especially pleased to have attracted a partner like Illva Saronno that, in addition to its global reach and long term vision, shares a similar style and core values that come from being a family-run company. Their experience, traditions and expertise, which comes with having a 500 year old liqueur like Disaronno in their portfolio., will be fantastic assets as we set about becoming recognised as one of the leading distillers of premium, craft, Irish whiskey in the world.”

Senior team

Founded in 1999 by husband and wife, Bernard and Rosemary Walsh from Carlow, over 14 years they have built a range of international award winning drinks brands including a portfolio of six premium Irish whiskies under The Irishman and Writerṣ Tears brands, the Hot Irishman Irish coffee and the Irishman Irish Cream liqueur.

In addition to the founders, Walsh Whiskey Distillery has built a highly experienced Board and advisory team comprising seasoned executives from the global wine and spirits sector, including: Pat Rigney (MD Fastnet Brands and Chair of The Dalcassian Wine & Spirits Company; founder of Boru Vodka Company and formerly of Baileys Irish Cream ); John Kickham (group MD J. Donohoe Beverages); John Chamney (a former C&C International director).

Record of strong growth

Led by founder Bernard Walsh, together the Walsh Whiskey leadership team has overseen growth of 300% in the last five years. With 95% of sales generated by exports, the Walsh Whiskey Distillery Irish whiskies are distributed in 30 countries with 70% of sales currently coming from five key markets, namely: the US, Russia, Scandinavia, France and Germany. In partnership with Illva Saronno and its existing distribution partners, the company plans to gradually expand its distribution network taking in major Asian markets, including India and China, where Illva has significant operations.

Development of distillery at Royal Oak, Carlow

Walsh Whiskey Distillery plans to develop a distillery, maturing warehouses and a visitor centre on farm land by the River Barrow at Royal Oak in Carlow, Ireland. The estate includes an 18th century country house that will be restored as part of the development plan.

The plan is for the distillery, with capacity to produce 400,000 cases annually, to become operational in 2016. It will have two production lines using both pot stills and column stills which will facilitate Walsh Whiskey producing all four types of Irish whiskey, namely; pot, malt, grain and blended. The distillery will also have the capacity to distil whiskey under contract for selected private labels most of whom have no means of production.

Global growth of Irish whiskey

Irish whiskey has been the fastest growing spirit in the world in the last 5 years growing from 4.4 million cases to 6.5 million since 2008.  Drinks industry analysts expect that growth to continue with sales of Irish whiskey expected to double to over 12 million cases in the next 5 years. The Walsh Whiskey Distillery expansion will enable the company to benefit from this increased demand and position it as one of the leading independent distillers of premium, craft, Irish whiskey.  The Walsh Whiskey Distillery Company will be one of just a handful of producers of scale, of triple-distilled, branded, Irish whiskey outside of the multinational companies.



16 October 2013 - Felicity Murray The Drinks Report, editor