Food minister Michael Creed bets on Irish whiskey to boost tourist economy

Ireland’s drinks trade body has launched a new initiative to make the country the number one destination for whiskey tourism over the US and Scotland.

Inside whiskey label Jameson’s barrel room in Midleton, Ireland. (Photo: Edith Hancock)

A new IrishWhiskey360° brand, website and social media platform were launched on Tuesday 10 September by minister for agriculture, food and the marine, Michael Creed, at whiskey maker Jameson’s visitor centre in Dublin.

William Lavelle, the head of the Irish Whiskey Association (IWA), said that the trade body hopes to attract 1.7 million visitors to distilleries and visitor centres over the next five years, while visitor count is expected to break the one million mark by the end of 2019.

The IrishWhiskey360° launch coincides with the Taste the Island campaign already being coordinated by Fáilte Ireland. It also forms part of the Food Wise 2025 strategy, encouraging industry and state agencies to create an Irish whiskey and food-pairing trail as part of a “major tourist attraction”.

Creed, said whiskey is “one of the real success stories of the Irish food and drink industry, competing on the world stage with sales in over 135 markets. The industry has grown from just four distilleries in 2013 to 26 operational distilleries in 2019.”

In 2018 there were 923,000 visitors to Irish whiskey distilleries, up 13% compared to 2017 and up 41% compared to 2015. The majority (45%) of visitors came from North America, followed by Great Britain (14%), Ireland (12%), Germany (8%) and France (7%).

Creed said the industry’s contribution to Ireland’s economy has been “huge”.

“Almost one million visitors to 17 Irish whiskey distillery visitor centres and brand homes all over the country,” he said.

“I am delighted to launch IrishWhiskey360° as it has massive potential to bring more visitors and more jobs to cities, towns and rural communities right across Ireland.”

IrishWhiskey360° will coordinate over 30 events and promotions in distilleries and visitor centres between 10 and 13 October this year – such as free or discounted tours, open days, whiskey tastings and food pairings, cooperage demonstrations, meet the distillers talks – working in conjunction with local bars and restaurants.

This whiskey tourism campaign is part of a larger initiative called Taste the Island, which aims to promote locally-produced food and drink.

The IWA has ramped up its investment in protecting the reputation and value of Irish Whiskey worldwide. Irish Whiskey gained a protected Geographical Indication in European Union member countries this April, after the IWA first applied for it in 2014.

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