In 2017, there were over 10 million visitors to Ireland. Almost 10 per cent of those travelers visited a whiskey distillery during their stay.
And while there were only four Irish whiskey distilleries less than a decade ago, today there are nearly 30. That figure is higher than the 18 recorded by the country’s Alcoholic Beverage Federation.
“The growth in distilleries has generated great interest for lovers of Irish whiskey worldwide,” says John Daly, the founder and a director of Whiskey Craft. “Many of them now visit Ireland to undertake a whiskey heritage holiday.”
Daly’s company sells Irish whiskey-related gifts and specialized hand-made gifts through its web-store. It also undertakes commissions to produce point-of-sale goods for Irish whiskey brands and distillery visitor centres.
The company’s products range from whiskey-themed greeting cards and kitchen aprons to miniature copper stills and oak maturation barrels. It also designs most products and sources production and materials locally where possible.
Daly has been proactive in growing the business. And while finding production partners in Ireland and other European countries can take time, companies have been quite receptive so far. Irish whiskey brands and distilleries are also happy to discuss product innovation and undertake trial sales.
“We recently supplied the new visitor centre at The Echlinville Distillery with most of their point-of-sale stock, as well as the new Pearse Lyons Distillery in Dublin. We are also now working with some iconic Irish whiskey brands, including Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey.”
Daly founded Whiskey Craft in County Wexford in 2016 after finding it hard to track down whiskey-themed products online.
It was a big career change, although it drew upon his talent and training in the visual arts as chief public relations photographer for the Irish Defence Forces in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
“After retiring from the military, I undertook a Masters Degree in Photography at the London Metropolitan University and started my own commercial photography business, along with lecturing part-time at college.
“Some commercial photo shoots brought me into contact with various drinks companies and, as I have always been an Irish whiskey fan, the idea for the Whiskey Craft business progressed from there.”
Today, Daly’s days are multi-faceted.
“I am pretty much everything, from product designer to bottle washer. My working day encompasses everything from designing new products, sourcing, marketing and business promotion, to dealing with specific client requests and meeting potential clients.”
He shares that trying to divide time between the office and visiting clients at various distilleries around Ireland can be challenging, “considering what some of our road networks are like, and the location of some distilleries.”
The firm uses different social media platforms to interest new clients. E-commerce orders and sample products must be shipped to customers without haste. Corporate consumers are usually developed through business-to-business contacts.
“We are also pretty active on the Irish whiskey social scene, so we get to know the various brand ambassadors and marketing departments at Irish whiskey events throughout the year.
“And we are members of the Irish Whiskey Society, which is a great social outlet beyond the daily business grind. Dealing with Irish whiskey brands that have an amazing history and provenance is a huge plus for us as we are devoted Irish whiskey lovers at heart.”
Daly notes that several major new distilleries are coming online in 2018 and in 2019. He hopes to work with them during what is proving to be an exciting time for Irish whiskey. The company is also in talks with some large tourist outlets. And it has had its first business inquiry from outside Ireland, from a Scottish whiskey brand interested in product development.
“We are undertaking design work on some new exciting gifts to add to our product range and will be launching these at Whiskey Live Dublin in November.”
He is not surprised by the growth of tourism in Ireland.
“Some people tend to dismiss locations with less than perfect weather, but most Celtic countries – particularly Ireland – make up for this with a very warm and welcoming population, amazing heritage and stunning scenery. Never being too far from a local pub doesn’t hurt either.”