With Irish whiskey enjoying a growing reputation around the globe, Tourism Ireland and the Irish Whiskey Association are pairing travel with spirits through new initiatives travel agents and their clients.
The two organizations were joined by representatives from three distillers of Irish whiskey – Bushmills, Jameson and Teeling – in Toronto on March 5 for tasting of the respective distillers’ products, paired with Irish cheeses and chocolates.
The growing focus on Ireland’s culinary aspect has been at the heart of programs such as Taste of Dublin and Taste of the Island festivals – running in June and the fall, respectively – while the destination’s 21 Michelin-starred eateries have also contributed to Ireland’s reputation as a hotspot for food and drink, said Tourism Ireland’s Canadian Director Dana Welch.
According to William Lavelle, head of Drinks Ireland & Irish Whiskey Association, the last decade has seen an Irish whiskey boom, with Canada – particularly Ontario – among the leading markets, making it the perfect time to welcome travellers to Ireland’s many distilleries.
“Irish whiskey has been around for centuries, but only in the last 10 years have we seen a renaissance,” Lavelle said. “Global sales have doubled and the number of distilleries has gone from four to 31.”
A growing market
To that end, the association has established Irish Whiskey 360, a new platform which connects travellers and travel agents with the Irish Whiskey Association’s 17 partner distilleries – soon to be 21, Lavelle added – that currently offer tours and visitor experiences such as mixing and blending the whiskey, allowing for advance planning and offers such as discounts. The association also promotes a number of ‘whiskey trails’ throughout the destination (of note is the Dublin whiskey trail, with five distilleries all in walking distance), connecting the various distilleries in clusters across Ireland similar to wine and ale trails in other destinations.
According to Lavelle, the participating distilleries welcomed more than 1 million visitors in 2019 (a 10.5 year-over-year increase), of which 300,000 were from either Canada or the U.S. With more than 5 million Canadians claiming Irish ancestry – many of whom travel to Ireland to discover the roots of their family tree – there’s an opportunity for agents to easily incorporate a distillery visit on such a trip.
“We see much further growth possible,” Lavelle said, “so when planning a trip, why not plan a visit to our distilleries?”
On the rocks
Welch added that another opportunity for agents to incorporate whiskey into an Ireland itinerary is through the ‘Whiskey On The Rocks’ program – one of 23 signature experiences offered through Northern Ireland’s Embrace a Giant Spirit campaign – which combines a Bushmills tasting literally on the rocks of the Giant’s Causeway, the destination’s unique geographic feature consisting of 40,000 interlocking basalt columns along the rocky shoreline.
“It’s another way of tying whiskey into the tourism experience,” Welch said, “meeting the local characters and hearing about their passion for whiskey.”
“The story of people and place is central to making whiskey – Ireland is different from Scotland, Dublin is different from the West Coast and Northern Ireland,” Lavelle said. “When people delve into this and understand how people craft Irish whiskey, it’s an amazing story to tell.”
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