The Italian way to Irish Whiskey

Posted by Whiskydo | Feb 2019 | in News
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Beppe Durante tells us about Ireland, Irish Whiskey and his Taste of Spirits venture

Beppe Durante in the fields at Clonakilty Irish Whiskey distillery
Beppe Durante and the fields at Clonakilty

Irish whiskey is the fastest growing and most exciting spirits category in the world. The main markets for Irish whiskey are the US, Canada, Russia and France. New markets are emerging in Asia and Eastern Europe. The EU is a smaller market but its need for premium products should not be underestimated. Italy’s Beppe Durante is working hard to promote the Irish whiskey category in his home country.

An Irish Awakening

With an Irish wife and having three children, Beppe has been more than familiar with Ireland for the last 20 years. “I’ve seen the Irish countryside change: people are going back to the country, taking up the work in the fields… They’re rediscovering traditional barley varieties, things that were long forgotten… It’s very exciting and whiskey is a big part of this awakening”. Ireland is experiencing a whiskey boom, its global sales having increased by more than 300% in the last decade. Irish whiskey tourism is growing significantly, with new distilleries and visitor centres attracting overseas tourists to the less visited areas of the country. Last year (2018) 923,000 visitors were greeted in 13 distilleries and 8 new visitor centres are planned to open in 2019.

Barley fields by the ocean at Clonakilty Irish whiskey distillery
Barley fields by the ocean at Clonakilty

Beppe says the Irish are “rediscovering their national identity around whiskey, which is a symbol of unity for the island as a whole. After centuries of emigration, people are proudly coming back to their country, trying to build something for the future. I really feel that anyone embarking on his distilling venture in Ireland now wants to create value for the future, for who’s coming next.” Beppe is genuinely interested in the Irish struggle for its whiskey future and wants to share all this with his fellow countrymen. “I want Italians to discover Irish whiskey, its complexity and richness. People in Italy often think Irish whiskey is cheap stuff: I want them to change their minds and taste quality products… I love Irish whiskey and it’s a fun job for me!”.

Introducing… Irish Whiskey!

Taste of Spirits, Beppe’s whiskey venture, is promoting the Irish whiskey category in the country. “I’m working with Echlinville, bringing their Dunville whiskey here in Italy because I think it’s good and I see its potential”. Beppe recently brought Dunville to Milan Whisky Festival (November 2018), as part of an introduction to Irish Whiskey organised by Taste of Spirits and Serghios Florides, editor at Irish Whiskey Magazine. We were there too and the room was full of people intrigued by Irish whiskey history and its present renaissance. Clearly, things are rapidly changing. “I’m currently working with Clonakilty, a new farm distillery in West Cork. They grow their own barley by the Atlantic and age their whiskey on site. Great things are going on and I want to be a part of that!”.

The old Dunville Irish whiskey distillery
The old Dunville distillery

Beppe says Pot Still is the iconic style of Irish Whiskey that will take its place alongside Single Malt Scotch in the Italian whisky drinker’s mind, as it is doing everywhere else in the world. Most people also think that Single Malt is a prerogative of Scotch whisky, but the truth is it has always been a part of Irish tradition. Today many Irish distilleries are producing extraordinary Single Malt expressions. ”People need to know what’s behind a product to make choices. Italians want to be educated about Irish whiskey and that’s what I’m trying to do, pushing the category as a whole… Other importers just want to show an Irish brand in their portfolio for completeness, but I want to do more: I’m focusing solely on Irish whiskey because I believe in its history and potential”.

The still room at Clonakilty Irish whiskey distillery
The stills at Clonakilty

Promoting the growth of the category in Italy

The US is by far the biggest Irish whiskey market today and the Irish are starting to get worried about over-dependence from this traditional partner. Russia was the fastest growing market for Irish whiskey in 2017 and big opportunities may arise from the EU countries too, where premium products are sought after. “Italians love Ireland, they’re attracted by its landscapes and history… They’ll be intrigued by the new Irish whiskey scene and the countless opportunities it offers”.

The whiskey industry is working together with the Government and local communities to develop an all-island whiskey tourism product. The industry is fostering the creation of an Irish whiskey trail all around the island, from the North to the South. The IWA (Irish Whiskey Association) thinks this will “encourage tourists to spend more time in distillery towns and help to create tourism clusters around each distillery”. Well, there’s nothing better Beppe can dream of… both for his business plans and for his enjoyment. He says “distilleries are being built around the visitor, they want to show them what they’re doing and why they’re doing it, offering the enthusiast a wide range of whiskey experiences while focusing on the quality of the product. I’ve visited Kilbeggan distillery and they offer an unforgettable tour around the history of the island and the whiskey, that’s really something worth the trip”.

Echlinville Irish whiskey distillery

Beppe says he’s working long-term with his Taste of Spirits business: “I believe in the potential of the industry as a whole and I decided to do my part in it. I’m building something for the future, trying to grow together with the category”. Taste of Spirits is present at events and festivals in Italy, spreading the word of the Irish in a world almost completely dominated by Single Malt Scotch. “Both sides deliver exceptional quality and I’m doing my best to make it clear”.

We see the passion behind the words and strongly feel that Beppe has what it takes to become an Irish whiskey ambassador in Italy, promoting the category as a whole and bringing Italians to love and appreciate Irish whiskey. The history and passion of the Irish people will definitely shine through.

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