How West Cork Is Innovating Irish Whiskey

Irish whiskey is traditionally smoother than its bolder cousin, Bourbon. But that doesn’t mean the spirit is less flavorful — or less innovative.

A new Irish whiskey brand exemplifies this creativity. West Cork Distillers opened in County Cork, Ireland, in 2003. Classic production methods are its foundation. West Cork malts its own barley, sources local spring water and distills only in pot stills.

Beyond that, the independently owned brand has expanded the scope of Irish whiskey. West Cork first launched a 10-year single malt and malt/grain blend, both matured in Bourbon casks. Next came its limited-edition Barrel Proof (62 ABV) and Black Reserve, matured in heavily charred #4 Bourbon first-fill casks.

West Cork recently launched a trio of 12-year-olds, finished in different casks: Port, sherry and rum. Further innovation is planned.

“Next year is going to be a watershed year,” says Gary Shaw Exec. VP, National Sales and Director Control States for M.S. Walker, Inc., which imports the brand. “West Cork will be experimenting with source fuels and barrel charrings. This is not a company that’s going to sit back on what it’s already doing.”

Drawing more consumers into Irish whiskey requires targeted education. “We’ve found that especially Millennials prefer our lighter, smoother flavor,” Shaw says. “We’ve been doing a number of tasting events geared towards younger consumers.”

“And we’re been bringing our limited-edition releases into top-end off-premise accounts, to educate the more sophisticated palates about Irish whiskey,” he adds. “Because of Bourbon, everyone thinks of whiskey as being bold. We’re trying to change that dynamic.”

Kyle Swartz is the managing editor of Beverage Dynamics magazine. Reach him at kswartz@epgmediallc.com or on Twitter @kswartzz. Read his recent piece 7 Whiskey Trends To Watch In 2017.

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