Move over wine – women want whiskey. It seems the age-old tipple is really having a moment, and we’re bound to find it in various guises this festive season. Lisa Devlin pays a fitting tribute…
If you’re wondering what the tipple du jour – or du noir – will be this winter, you might look to what your favourite female icon is drinking. It seems everyone from Lady Gaga and Rihanna to Hillary Clinton and the Duchess of Cambridge can’t get enough of whiskey. Even Mila Kunis and Mad Men’s Christina Hendricks are endorsing the big brands (Jim Beam and Johnnie Walker respectively). In “Higher”, Rihanna sings “this whiskey got me feeling pretty” while Lady Gaga often croons about the wonders of the amber-coloured spirit during her shows.
This bevy of high-profile women might not have very much in common other than their love of whiskey. Yet, their newfound admiration is no coincidence – there’s a major resurgence going on. Everywhere you look, whiskey is making a comeback, and this change is most prevalent amongst the female population. Whiskey sales, driven mainly by women, have been skyrocketing. As Rebecca Bell of The Teeling Whiskey Company notes, “Women between the ages of 21-35 are the fastest growing demographic of whiskey drinkers, and they’re really driving a lot of the growth.” There are even clubs and organisations for women dedicated to the art of drinking and learning about whiskey, such as the Women Who Whiskey club in New York.
Whiskey used to be seen an as an “old man’s drink”, but attitudes are being shaken up and a new appreciation for whiskey, with its compelling notes of spice, nuts, and vanilla, is well underway. Bell adds, “this is particularly interesting when you look at the cocktail revival and prevalence of pre-Prohibition cocktails like whiskey sours and Old Fashioneds, where Irish whiskey is a key ingredient.” Suffice it to say, all of the recent attention dedicated to this complex but approachable spirit is leading to a full-blown female-driven whiskey renaissance.
That said, women have always been a key component in the history of whiskey. In fact, it was women who kept the industry afloat during the 18th century by making and selling the drink. Women were producing most of the whiskey back then by distilling it right in their own kitchens. Furthermore, a number of popular whiskeys were either founded, owned, managed, or saved by women. Today, a number of women are playing key leadership roles in the Irish whiskey industry, from Grace O’Sullivan, who is the premium whiskey brand manager for Irish Distillers Pernod Ricard, to Karen Cotter, distiller at the Irish Distillers Microdistillery at Midleton. Both are excited to see the surge in popularity of the drink. Cotter believes “blended Irish whiskey will continue to lead the category” but notes that “single pot still Irish whiskey, which is considered to be the quintessential style of Irish whiskey and the insiders’ whiskey of choice, is really one to watch, with the likes of Redbreast 21 Year Old being named Ireland’s Top Whiskey for the second year running at the Irish Whiskey Awards.” O’Sullivan agrees: “We aren’t just seeing traditional styles such as the single pot still Irish whiskey coming back to life, but we are also seeing intriguing new innovations being created and new distilleries being developed across Ireland at the moment.”
At last year’s inaugural Dublin Whiskey Festival, founder Oisín Davis remarked, “What was very encouraging was to see the amount of women in all of the venues enjoying our national spirit, whether they were sipping it straight or in a perfectly crafted whiskey sour. Irish people are really embracing Irish whiskey in all its forms.” O’Sullivan explains, “As a nation, we are demanding more for our money, especially when it comes to food and drink. There has been a significant revival of local, Irish, and traceability. We want reassurance that our produce has been created with honed skill; we look for heritage and craft; and we want to know the people behind the products. Irish whiskey encompasses all of this.”
Ready to embrace the trend? Here’s where to start…
Learn more at…
The 2016 Dublin Whiskey Fest This festival, now in its second year, runs February 15-20 in venues across Dublin city, showcasing Irish whiskey in all its incarnations, from cocktails to Irish coffees. There will be a series of workshops, tastings, demos, a hot toddy competition, and other surprises too, greatirishbeverages.com.
The Galway Whiskey Trail Launching this past August, this free, self-guided trail along eleven venues in the heart of Galway City invites visitors to indulge in Galway’s rich whiskey heritage, spanning 200 years, galwaywhiskeytrail.ie.
The Teeling Whiskey Distillery Newly opened this year in The Liberties, it offers fully guided tours and tastings around Dublin’s only operational distillery where you can see all the elements involved in whiskey production. For a unique treat, the distillery gift shop offers a Teelings-flavoured ice cream, or you can even bottle your own exclusive single malt whiskey, teelingwhiskey.com.
Boann Distillery and Visitor Centre Due to open in Drogheda in 2016, it will feature a whiskey distillery, craft brewery and taproom, and visitor centre, boanndistillery.ie.
The Irish Whiskey Museum is the first of its kind in the world and offers an interactive tour of Irish whiskey through the ages. Located at 199 Grafton Street, Dublin, irishwhiskeymuseum.ie.
Dingle Distillery The Co Kerry distillery offers comprehensive one-day (€95) and two-day (€350) courses, where students are taken through the production process both in theory and practice. They also offer distillery tours for €10, dingledistillery.ie.
Dick Mack’s Pub This Dingle watering hole recently won the Irish Whiskey Bar of the Year Award for the second year running, so why not check out what all the fuss is about?
Try the whiskey products in our gallery above or check out these five whiskey bars in Dublin you need to try.
This article was originally published in the December issue of IMAGE magazine.