For the love of the Irish: the Irish Whiskey Boom in South Africa

For the love of the Irish: the Irish Whiskey Boom in South Africa

Irish whiskey is one of fastest-growing spirits in the world. A few years ago, Ireland was home to only 4 whiskey distilleries. Today, with over 30 planned distilleries across the country, Irish whiskey is taking the world by storm – even infamous boxer, Conor McGregor, is claiming he’s going to “take over the market” with his “Notorious” Irish Whiskey brand!

According to a 2017 article in online publication, the Drinks Report, Irish whiskey exports were up by an estimated 8% in 2016 to R7.25 billion (US$537m) and should rise by 100% by 2020. Globally, the Irish whiskey boom is in part attributed to the smooth, easy-drinking qualities of the liquid and in part owing to Ireland’s strategic focus on whiskey to boost their overall export revenues. Carlow’s Faculty of Science at the Institute of Technology has even launched a Bachelor of Science (Honours) degree in Brewing and Distilling!

Back home, the Irish whiskey category in South Africa has an annual growth rate of 14%. The total whisky market (including Scotch whisky) is growing annually by 1.6% and has accelerated over the past 3 months by 2.3%.

So what is driving the exponential growth of Irish whiskey? In South Africa, it is sales of Jameson and Tullamore D.E.W. The Irish whiskey category’s interest in South Africa as a key export market is evidenced by the number of Irish whiskey ambassadors who will be flying out to attend Whisky & Spirits Live from 8 – 10 November in a bid to continue educating South African consumers.

Every year over 10 000 people descend on the Sandton Convention Centre to learn about the world of whisk(e)y and taste from almost 300 whiskies on offer under the tutelage of whiskey masters like John Quinn, Global Ambassador for Tullamore D.E.W; Andrew Sweeney, Distillery Manager for Glendalough; Jamie Dwyer, Global Ambassador for Jameson and Michael Cowman, Global Ambassador for Single Potstills.

Meet John Quinn, Global Brand Ambassador for Tullamore D.E.W, at Whisky & Spirits Live or book for his Master Class

“It is the combination of malted and unmalted barley which is unique and gives a creamy mouth feel with spicy flavour like nothing else,” says Cowman of Irish pot stills whiskey. In South Africa, Irish Pot Still Whiskey is experiencing incremental growth despite no marketing spend behind these brands.

Meet Michael Cowman, Ambassador for the Irish Pot Still Whiskeys of Midleton, at Whisky & Spirits Live or book for his Master Class

Available for tasting at the event are Midleton, Green Spot, Yellow Spot, Power’s Johns Lane, Power’s Gold and Power’s Signature. Add to this the guidance of Michael Cowman and a visit to this stand should not be missed.


It’s the array of lesser-known brands like these that ensure that the event continues to claim the spot of the world’s largest whisky festival. The opportunity to taste brands that consumers otherwise may never consider buying – especially if one considers the price of a bottle of Irish Whiskey or Scotch Whisky – is what keeps people coming back for more.

Another must-do at this year’s event is a Master Class for a more in-depth understanding of a whisk(e)y of your choice. Globally admired for his commitment to, and knowledge of Irish whiskey, John Quinn will be hosting a series of exclusive Tullamore D.E.W Master Classes in which ticket holders will have the opportunity to taste whiskeys straight from the cask to be sampled prior to blending and bottling as well as Tullamore D.E.W’s Phoenix special edition.

John Quinn’s Tullamore D.E.W ‘The Beauty of Blending Your Own’ Master Classes will be held on 8 November at 18h45, 9 November at 18h30 and 10 November at 18h45. Book now to avoid missing out – tickets are limited.

Michael Cowman, also known as Michael of Midleton, will present 2 classes only: one on 8 November at 20h15 and one on 10 November at 20h15. Book now to avoid disappointment at the door as there are only 40 seats available per class!

Whisky & Spirits Live is at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg from 8 – 10 November this year. Tickets start at R240 each from and include 16 tasting vouchers, a bottle of Consol Glass Still Water and a tasting glass.

No Under 18s. Drink Responsibly.

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