By SAM BUTLER
The Quiet Man Irish Whiskey, developed by Niche Drinks in Derry, has won two gold awards in the influential Irish Whiskey Masters 2021.The whiskeys were entered by Luxco of St Louis, Missouri, the US owners of The Quiet Man and Niche Drinks, and gained golds for its eight-year-old and 12-year-old premium single malts developed under the supervision of Ciaran Mulgrew, managing director of Niche Drinks, an award winning producer of Irish cream liqueurs, including Saint Brendan’s.
The Luxco partnership with Niche Drinks dates back to 1986.
The eight-year-old was awarded gold in the single malt standard and the 12-year-old in the single malt premium categories.
First bottled in June 2015, The Quiet Man was the first whiskey distilled in Derry in over a century. The city was once home to Watts and Co, Ireland’s largest whiskey distillery.
The Quiet Man was introduced by Luxco in the US in 1986 and has proved a successful addition to the Irish whiskey category there.
The Quiet Man eight-year-old was described by the judges as “very fragrant”. The whiskeys are now on sale worldwide.
There was a silver award, too, for Belfast Distillery’s McConnell’s Irish Whiskey blend in the prestigious awards, which demonstrate how the Irish whiskey category is rapidly expanding.
McConnell’s Irish Whiskey was revived and relaunched in 2020 by Belfast Distillery Company from a brand dating back to 1776.
The Belfast company is now part of Conecuh Brands of New York. It has plans to build a distillery in a wing of the historic Crumlin Road Gaol in Belfast.
The silver award to McConnell’s was in the blended premium category.
The organisers of the awards say that “despite the geopolitical challenges creating difficulties for Irish whiskey, the category had a stellar year in 2020”.
Irish whiskey experienced a 140 per cent increase in sales from 2010 to 2020, according to the Irish Whiskey Association (IWA) in Dublin, which represents around 20 distilleries in both Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.
There are now around 40 distilleries on the island of Ireland.
The IWA’s Irish Whiskey Global report showed 96 per cent of sales last year were in markets outside of Ireland, with the US alone accounting for 43 per cent of the spirit’s sales.
Irish whiskey sales in the US generated $1.1 billion worth of revenue for Irish distillers in 2020. The category’s growth is being bolstered by new distilleries joining the sector. Recent additions include Wild Atlantic in Strabane, County Tyrone, and Hinch in Ballynahinch, County Down.
The event organisers say: “As the category expands, it’s important that quality also continues on the same upward trajectory.”
To put Irish whiskey to the test, the 2021 Irish Whiskey Masters’ judges gathered at the Ibis Hotel in London Bridge.
Wine Sorted assured each entrant was bagged and labelled anonymously to ensure each whiskey was judged solely on the liquid inside the bottle.