Midleton Dair Gaelach Irish Whiskeys The Resurgence of Irish Whiskey

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People throughout the world celebrate St Patrick’s Day in March, and while Guinness often takes centre stage in commercial celebrations, whiskey is becoming increasingly prominent. The 2010s were an incredible decade for the Irish whisky industry, with a turn in fortune that saw the island go from having only four working distilleries left in 2010 to over forty today.  

At Whisky Auctioneer, the five leading brands of Irish whiskey are: Redbreast, Jameson, Midleton, Bushmills and Teeling. The first three, as well as many other Irish whiskey labels, are all owned by Irish Distillers, the largest whiskey group in Ireland. Formed in 1966 through mergers, the group decided to consolidate their whiskey production at the Midleton site in County Cork, with stills of various sizes being used in combination to create unique flavours for each label.

The new Midleton distillery (completed in 1975) is now the largest in Ireland, with the biggest operational stills in the world at 75,000 litres and surrounded by the sprawling Old Midleton complex including a visitor centre, the Irish Whiskey Academy and an archive house for Irish Distillers. 

Old Midleton Distillery

Old Midleton Distillery, in operation until 1975

Across the island of Ireland, Bushmills is a brand with a 400 year old history, situated in close proximity to the Giant's Causeway which lends its name to the distillery's rare single malts series. Fittingly, considering the large U.S. interest in Irish whiskey, the distillery is owned by New Jersey-based Porximo Spirits Inc. 

A major landmark in the revival of Irish whiskey came with the establishment of Teeling distillery in The Liberties area of Dublin in 2015, the first to open in the capital city for 125 years. Whisky Auctioneer was extremely proud to bring the first 100 bottles of The Teeling Celebratory Single Pot Still, the first whiskey to run from a Dublin still and into a bottle in nearly five decades, to auction in 2018. 

This was a momentous occasion for Irish whiskey and marked a clear shift in sales at Whisky Auctioneer: bottles from the five leading brands offered at auction tripled from 388 per year in 2017 to 1244 in 2019. Since then, sales have never fallen back down, showing the continued interest in Irish whiskey from collectors and enthusiasts over the last 5 years. Average hammer price per lot of Irish whiskey at Whisky Auctioneer has also risen accordingly, more than quadrupling in the last eight years.  

Joe Wilson, Head Curator and Spirits Specialist at Whisky Auctioneer, said:

Irish whiskey is very much in the midst of a renaissance that has quickly seen it become one of the most eye-catching and ultimately collectable categories in the industry as a whole.  


Having suffered a severe downturn in fortunes in the mid-20th century that eventually saw the island confined to just two distilleries - both owned by the same company - the latter decades witnessed the beginning of a rewilding of the Irish whiskey landscape that has culminated in the emergence of the vast array of independent and craft producers we find today.


Despite being a modern development, this has uniquely served to remind the world of the rich heritage of Irish distilling, reviving legendary brands, historic local industries and even whiskey styles.  


While building on the heritage of whiskey in Ireland, young distilleries are also introducing innovative methods to the industry: in 2022, Waterford distillery released the world’s first single malt made from biodynamic barley with their Waterford Luna 1.1 Biodynamic. And in 2015, Irish Distillers opened an experimental micro distillery in one of the Old Midleton buildings. The micro distillery allows distillers to both re-create older styles of whiskey, after an 1820s notebook belonging to J. Jameson was found, and to experiment with their popular Method & Madness range which aims to push the boundaries of Irish whiskey.  


The resurgence [of Irish whiskey] is hallmarked by a revivalism that has seen every new name, like Teeling or Waterford, accompanied by the resurrection of those such as Egan, Dunville and J.J. Corry.


The reappearance of brands like these not only demonstrates the impressive, continued rise of the Irish whiskey category, but is an important reminder that while it feels new and exciting, it is built on centuries of heritage and tradition.


Joe Wilson, Head Curator and Spirits Specialist


With the creation of online platforms like Whisky Auctioneer, whisky connoisseurs have also gained greater access to old, rare and unusual examples. With the exponential growth of the secondary whisky market in recent years, a greater understanding, appreciation, and demand for rare and high-quality whiskies now exists. Some of the most sought-after and iconic collections of Irish whiskey include the Midleton Very Rare series and Redbreast Dream Cask. Expressions from these collections achieved the greatest hammer price values in 2022 on the Whisky Auctioneer platform.

Auctions also provide the chance for enthusiasts to discover expressions of Irish whiskey from bygone eras of distillation. Our March 2023 auction provides an ideal platform to look back at this history through the lens of one of its biggest names, Jameson, with five incredible early examples of John Jameson & Son whiskey in its 10-year-old and “3 star” 7-year-old expressions, all bottled in the 1920s through 1930s.


Important to note is that prior to 1963, all Jameson was provided in-cask to merchants along with a license to bottle and sell it using the official branding. The bottles therefore form plot points on a map that displays the significant reach and domestic influence of the brand at the time, with the examples in our sale occupying every corner of the Irish mainland to the south and west of the Bow Street distillery in Dublin.


The varied collection of stated bottlers also makes them artefacts of the wider social and economic history of Ireland’s whiskey merchants of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Each is a key that unlocks its own story, and our auction features bottles from a beloved long-lost pub in Galway, a Dublin wine and spirits shop that once feuded with Hennessy over the name of its brandy, and the early origins of an Enniscorthy-based company that is now one of Ireland’s foremost blending and bottling services.


Joe Wilson, Head Curator and Spirits Specialist


Whisky Auctioneer regularly welcomes rare and collectible Irish whiskey expressions in our monthly auctions. Browse all past and present lots or contact us if you are interested in selling a bottle of Irish whiskey.