Jameson quietly launched a Fairtrade, ‘cold brew’ coffee-based spirit in Ireland

As whiskey sales soar, Irish Distillers’ brand Jameson is trialling a Fairtrade certified coffee spirit in select local retailers.

Irish Distillers had produced just 3,000 bottles of Jameson Cold Brew. (Photo: Edith Hancock)

Jameson Cold Brew — which was initially launched at Irish Distillers’ Bow Street distillery and select O’Briens retailers around two weeks ago — is described as an “Irish whiskey-based coffee spirit” by the company’s  international whiskey ambassador, blender and academy educator Ciaran O’Donovan, who told the drinks business the new serve “took years of planning” to bring to life.

The limited edition 35% ABV serve combines Faitrade certified Arabica beans from Colombia and Brazil, which have been roasted in the US before being transported back to ID’s Midleton headquarters and mixed with Jameson’s flagship blended whiskey.

The drinks has “hints of toasted oak and dark chocolate,” and is designed to either be served on ice or incorporated into a cocktail, according to Jameson’s website.

O’Donovan told db that the decision to go Fairtrade certified came as “people want to know more about what they’re drinking.”

“We’ve always made things in a sustainable fashion,” he said. “Before, no one was asking us about it, so there wasn’t a point to putting these things on the label.”

“We didn’t want to overload consumers with too much information.”

However, in the wake of a growing audience of what spirits giant William Grant & Sons’ executives called “Activist Consumers” at the launch of its 2018 Market Report this year, drinks firms large and small have begun to adopt vegan, organic and Fairtrade certifications on their products.

If the drink proves popular, O’Donovan said the brand plans to roll it out in key markets such as the US at the start of 2019, copying the strategy Irish Distillers applied to the launch of its Caskmates series earlier this year.

“We trial everything here in Ireland first,” he said.

It isn’t the first time a whiskey label has dabbled with coffee. Jack Daniels launched a whiskey-flavoured coffee in January 2017.

Jameson’s barrel-room. (Photo: Edith Hancock)

It comes as sales of whiskey are already on the rise, particularly in the US, where sales have risen by 4.6% in the past two years, making it the third-fastest growing spirits category in the country, according to data from Nielsen. Americans spent $2.08 billion on the aged elixir last year. It has also increased its market share to 35% since July 2017.

Whiskey, specifically bourbon and Irish, were tipped to be one of the growing trends of 2018 by Euromonitor’s Spiros Malandrakis earlier this year, but Scotch, less so.

“As bourbon and Irish varietals will continue spearheading growth through savvy positioning, approachability credentials, versatility and bold experimentation,” he said at the time, “it will be within Scotch where the battle lines are drawn and the fine balance between tradition and innovation will have to be struck. ”

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