Its expansion plans have attracted significant development funding from the Italian drinks giant, Illva Saronno Holding SpA, which is owned and run by the Reina family in Saronno near Milan.
The investment will facilitate the development of a world-class, independent, craft Irish whiskey distillery; maturation warehouses and a visitor experience by the banks of the River Barrow in Royal Oak, County Carlow by 2016.
The expansion will create a total of 55 permanent and part-time jobs in the Carlow area, over five years, where the whiskies will be distilled, crafted and aged. The dDepartment of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, through Enterprise Ireland, is supporting the project.
In addition, the construction process will provide up to 40 jobs during the 18-month development phase, which is scheduled to commence in spring 2014, subject to planning permission.
Welcoming the announcement, the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton TD, said: “At the heart of the Government’s Action Plan for Jobs is our determination to create a powerful engine of Irish exporting businesses. Today’s announcement that the Walsh Whiskey Distillery Company is investing €25m in a world-class centre in Co Carlow, with the creation of 55 permanent and 40 temporary jobs in a regional location, is a model of what we are trying to achieve. Here is an Irish SME which, with the support of Government and Enterprise Ireland in particular, has lifted its ambitions, pursued new markets, and is now creating large numbers of jobs in an area, which badly needs them. I commend all involved on their efforts and wish them every success for the future.”
Irish whiskey has been the fastest-growing spirit in the world in the past five years growing from 4.4 million cases to 6.5 million since 2008. Drinks industry analysts expect that growth to continue with sales of Irish whiskey expected to double to over 12 million cases in the next five years.
Illva Saronno’s CEO Augusto Reina travelled from Milan with several of his colleagues to attend the announcement in Dublin. With 17th-century origins, Illva Saronno’s portfolio is led by Disaronno, the world’s second-largest premium liqueur and Tia Maria. It also includes Artic Vodka, Isolabella Sambuca, Zucca, and Aurum and Sicilian Wines Duca di Salaparuta, Corvo and Florio among others. These brands are distributed in 160 countries worldwide. Illva also has a significant interest in China’s largest winery, Changyu, and a growing foothold in India, the world’s largest whiskey market, 280 million cases annually.
The founder of Walsh Whiskey Distillery, Bernard Walsh said: “We are delighted to be expanding our business due to strong demand for our super-premium and ultra-premium Irish whiskey brands, which are crafted in the best tradition of 19th century Irish whiskey distilling. We are especially pleased to have attracted a partner such as Illva Saronno. In addition to its global reach and long term vision, Illva and Walsh share a similar style and core values that come from being family-run companies. Their experience, traditions and expertise, which come with having a 500-year-old liqueur such as Disaronno in their portfolio, will be fantastic assets as we set about becoming recognised as one of the leading distillers of premium, craft, Irish whiskey in the world.”
Augusto Reina, CEO of Illva Saronno Holding commented: “We are extremely delighted to announce the partnership with Walsh Whiskey Distillery today. With this investment, not only will Illva gain production capacity and expertise in a fast growing sector such as that of Irish whiskey – which is already showing remarkable growth rates and is expected to grow up to 12 million cases within the next 5 years – but it will also enable Walsh Whiskey Distillery to lean on Illva as a leading business developer both in Italy and abroad.”
Founded in 1999 by husband and wife, Bernard and Rosemary Walsh from Carlow, over 14 years they have built a range of international award-winning drinks brands including a portfolio of six Irish whiskies under TheIrishman and Writerṣ Tears brands, the Hot Irishman Irish coffee and TheIrishman Irish Cream liqueur.
The most recent award received by a Walsh Whiskey Distillery brand was for ‘Best Blended Whiskey’ by Writerṣ Tears at the inaugural Irish Whiskey Awards in October. The award, in the largest and most competitive award category, was keenly contested by a large number of entries from the burgeoning Irish whiskey sector including many of Ireland’s top blends such as Bushmills Black Bush, Powers 12 Year Old Special Reserve, Tullamore Dew 12 Year Old and Jameson 12 Year Old Special Reserve.
Led by founder Bernard Walsh, together the Walsh Whiskey leadership team has overseen revenue growth of 300 per cent in the past five years. With 95 per centvof sales generated by exports, the Walsh Whiskey Distillery Irish whiskies are distributed in 30 countries. Five key markets currently account for 70 per cent of sales, these are: the US, Russia, Scandinavia, France and Germany.
In partnership with Illva Saronno and its existing distribution partners, the company plans to gradually expand its network taking in major Asian markets, including India and China, where Illva has significant operations. In anticipation of this expansion the company undertook a comprehensive brand audit earlier this year with the support of Bord Bia.