Last night (Tuesday December 3), I attended a tasting of Balblair vintages. We tasted five whiskies, 2003, 1997, 1990, 1983 and 1969, prefaced by a glass of Balblair’s base spirit.
In a strategic review, the US-based group decided future demand in export markets necessitated its Kilbeggan and Cooley distileries' inventories being retained for its brands.
Last year Cooley Distillery sold around 250,000-300,000 nine-litre cases, of which only 100,000 cases were Cooley brands' volume.
A statement from Beam read: “In making the transition to building the Cooley brands, Beam is respecting existing supply contracts and appropriate notice periods. Approximately half of this year's Cooley stock will still go to third parties.
“Most affected own-label brand companies did not have supply contracts and were informed of this decision as soon as it was made so that they could source alternative supplies. There are a number of own-label Irish whiskey companies that source whiskey from alternate suppliers.”
Stephen Teeling, global marketing manager of Irish whiskeys at Beam, said: “Kilbeggan [a blend] will be the engine and focus of the Cooley brands and we want to grow our single malt [Tyrconnell and Connemara] and single grain [Greenore] as people start to look at other types of whiskey."
Beam distributed 15,000 cases of Kilbeggan to the US for St Patrick’s Day in March. At 20 times the normal order for that time of the year, it was the largest ever shipment from Cooley.
The Irish whiskey category stands at around 4.9 million cases (IWSR) and is expected to achieve 7.9 million cases by 2016 (IWSR).
Teeling said the target was to achieve a share of around 5-10% of the category by 2016. He said: “10% of 8 million cases is 800,000 – that’s a realistic target.”