Whiskey galore for Tullamore
“We’re laying out significant investment for Tullamore Dew’s future success. We’re not doing it to own the brand for just five to six years. It’s about a long-term ownership.”
Irish whiskey is hotter than the African sun at present, especially in the United States where Pernod Ricard’s Jameson brand has led the charge. Irish whiskey sales in the US rose by 24 per cent last year to 1.7 million.
Tullamore Dew is the second biggest whiskey brand in the world behind Jameson, but it’s only a tiddler in the four biggest markets for the spirit: the US, Ireland, France and the UK.
About 700,000 cases of Tullamore Dew were shifted in 2011, up 15 per cent on the previous year. Just 15,000 of those were sold in Ireland and about 80,000 in the US.
David wants to change that and believes its distribution capabilities in the major markets will boost sales of Tullamore Dew.
“It’s got a very interesting geographic footprint and it’s also got great growth potential in places like the US.
“In the US ... it could easily be 200,000, 300,000 or 400,000 cases. We see it as having great growth potential and it was very complementary to our portfolio.”
She admires Jameson and how Pernod Ricard has successfully grown the brand but insists that Tullamore Dew offers a different experience for whiskey drinkers.
“Jameson feels like it has an international, cosmopolitan feel whereas Tullamore Dew is going back to some sort of iconic historical feeling of being Irish in terms of its attitude.”
Make of that what you will.
William Grant’s stable of Scotch whisky and other spirits is formidable. Grants is the third-largest blended whiskey in the world while Glenfiddich is the number one malt, breaking through the one million case barrier in 2011.
“It’s really doing well in all markets around the world at the moment,” David explains.
It also owns Balvenie. “We position it as the world’s most hand-crafted malt whiskey. It’s growing substantially, particularly in Asian markets. It hit record sales last year, too.”
Then there’s Hendrick’s Gin, a “super premium” product, according to David. “Its packaging is very distinctive, almost like a medicine bottle. What differentiates it from any other gin is the fact that it goes with a slice of cucumber. The taste is completely different.”
To that lot, you can add Reyka vodka, Monkey Shoulder whisky and Sailor Jerry rum, edgier brands.
William Grant’s latest published figures show it made a profit of £132 million on turnover of £951 million in 2010. David is coy about its performance last year.
“It was good, very good. Our core brands grew across the board. Overall our profits were up year-on-year, our turnover was up.”
Irish whiskey might pre-date Scotch but famine, a lack of innovation and high taxes imposed by De Valera post second World War to protect stocks, mean we lag our Celtic cousins in terms of global sales.
About five million cases of Irish whiskey are shifted annually around the world compared with 90 million cases of Scotch.
“Irish whiskey is dwarfed by Scotch but there’s no good reason for that,” David says, adding that Irish whiskey’s moment is very much now. “Irish whiskey globally is really an undervalued category. It’s so small versus its potential.”
What’s the difference between the two?
“I think it’s slightly sweeter. It’s probably easier on the palette for male and female drinking. It also mixes very well.”
The Englishwoman is coy about which she prefers most. “I love them both,” she giggles. “Of course I do. It would be like asking which of my children do I prefer. You can’t ask me that. They’re very different.”