Slainté - Welcome to Artisan Ireland the Australian home of Ireland’s finest Craft Beers and Spirits. We are a small, independent company committed to bringing the best of Irish to Australia.
If you’ve been lucky enough to have spent time in the Emerald Isle in recent years you will know that it is now home to one of the World’s most exciting and dynamic craft brewing / distilling industries which shouldn’t really come as a surprise given that Ireland is synonymous with hospitality and great drinks. As Ireland has a population of only 4.5 Million many of the craft breweries and distilleries have set their ambitions towards producing exceptionally high quality brands that appeal to a global audience.
In addition to Ireland’s premier craft beer brand O’Hara’s, we are proud to have a number of sensational brands in our portfolio which have taken top honors at the most prestigious International competitions including:
Dingle Gin crowned “World’s Best Gin” and “World’s Best London Dry” at the World Gin Awards in 2019 making it the first brand to win both of these titles simultaneously. We’re sure you’ll agree that it would take a rather extraordinary gin to achieve this feat!
Eight Degrees Brewing Co based in Co.Cork beat off more than 2000 other brews to pick up World’s Best American Style Pale for their ‘Howling Gale Pale Ale’ at the 2018 World Beer Awards and in 2020 their ‘Sunburnt Irish’ picked up World’s Best Amber Ale which are two of the most sought after categories and are testament to the standard of brewing.
Rye River Brewing Co took the 2020 World Beer Awards by storm (again) and collected a total of 30 awards making them Europe’s most decorated brewery.
We’re not trying to boast here but rather hope that this level of International recognition gives credence to our vision here at Artisan Ireland which is to bring Ireland’s most exciting Craft Beers and Spirits to Australia.
The rise of Irish Craft Beer.
Ireland has had a deep history of and love for beer and at the turn on the 20th Century had hundreds of small, local breweries and distilleries which were producing distinctive, local and unique brews with provenance. In a similar way to the Whiskey distilling industry, the 20th Century presided over the demise and virtual collapse of this vibrant industry and by the mid 1990’s the country’s entire beer supply was being produced by 3 large scale operators Guinness (Diageo), Murphy’s (Heineken) and Beamish & Crawford (Heineken).
Ireland was a renowned producer of excellent beer and enjoyed an International reputation for this but towards the end of the 20th Century all of these distinctive small, local, brews had disappeared and all that remained were the national brands Guinness, Murphy’s, Beamish, Smithwicks, McCardles and Harp Lager.
Thankfully the 1990’s heralded a rebirth of independent Irish brewing led by a small pioneering group which included The Carlow Brewing Co brewers of the O’Hara’s range of craft beer.
O’Hara’s Irish Craft Beer:
Carlow Brewing Co are the brewery behind O’Hara’s and are one of the true pioneers of the Irish Craft brewing renaissance ‘brewing in the flavour’ since 1996. Craft beer back in the 1990’s was very different to the market we know today and it was a huge challenge to reach and encourage beer drinkers who had been conditioned and brain washed through years of expensive advertising campaigns by the major brewers. Passion, determination, conviction and great beers were needed to take on this challenge. Most of the bigger brands had gradually become less flavoursome and insipid in order to appeal to a wider market however for the O’Hara’s range, Carlow Brewing Co went back through the archives and uncovered old brewing records and based their brews on these original historical recipes. Carlow Brewing Co are now the largest craft brewer in Ireland producing almost 25% of the Ireland’s craft beer production. O’Hara’s have managed to establish a significant market for their beers both at home and abroad. We are extremely proud to present O’Hara’s Craft Beers to the Australian market.
Irish Whiskey a brief history:
The word whiskey is derived from the Gaelic ‘Uisce Baetha’ meaning ‘Water of Life’.
We are living through one of the most exciting eras for Irish Whiskey which has been the fastest growing spirits category in the World for more than 10 consecutive years and in 2019 we have finally reached and exceeded the export volumes enjoyed at the peak of the industry some 100 years ago.
Irish Whiskey has had a fascinating history ever since distilling was first introduced to the island by monks back in 600AD. Over the following centuries distilleries started to proliferate throughout the island and 1779 there were 1,228 ‘registered’ distilleries in Ireland. The introduction of strict legislation devised to maximise tax revenue forced many smaller distilleries to go underground and provided the opportunity for a smaller number of large scale ‘licensed’ distilleries in urban cities like Dublin and Cork to increase their production and market share. It is estimated that there were anything between 2,000 – 20,000 small unlicensed distilleries operating at this time.
In the early 1900’s Irish spirits dominated the World market and Irish Whiskey was the most popular spirit in the World until a series of separate events conspired to cripple the industry and see it go from producing 12 million cases a year to finding itself in the 1980’s having only 2 remaining Irish distilleries and Irish Whiskey accounting for only 1% of global Whiskey exports. How could such a dramatic fall from grace be possible?
Consider this for a perfect storm. The First World War breaks out in 1914 coupled with the Easter Rising of 1916 which led to the War of Independence and subsequent Civil War culminating in a bitter trade war with the UK which decimated demand for Irish Whiskey exports. As if this were not enough then the introduction of prohibition in the US between 1920 -33 which outlawed the importation, sale and consumption of alcohol throughout the states which at the time was a huge market for Irish Whiskey. There was an additional factor which impacted on Irish Whiskey distillers and this was the invention of the ground-breaking ‘Coffey Still’.
The ‘Coffey Still’ was invented by Irish man Aeneas Coffey who prior to his career in distilling had been the Inspector General for Excise in Ireland. The Coffey still brought about huge efficiencies because unlike pot stills which operated on a batch basis the Coffey still was able to operate on a continuous basis leading to much higher output and much lower costs. The problem was that the main distilleries in Ireland believed that the resulting spirit produced by these stills was greatly inferior and lacked flavour compared to that produced by their pot stills and they questioned whether it should even be allowed to carry the name Whiskey. Eschewed by Irish distillers the Coffey Still was embraced by the Scottish distillers who put it to great effect thus providing a huge increase in production and a massive strategic advantage. The introduction of ‘blended’ whiskey which involved the use of spirit produced from the more efficient ‘Coffey still’ combined with better quality single malt or pot still whiskies became extremely popular and Irish distillers struggled to compete. Scottish whiskey which had up until this point been a fledgling industry compared to Ireland suddenly began to dominate.
In 1966 with only a handful of Irish distilleries remaining a new alliance was formed called the Irish Distillers Group which was made up of Jameson, Cork Distillers and John Powers and production was moved to Middleton. In 1972 Bushmills joined the group and so by 1975 there were only 2 distilleries in the entire country.
The late 1980’s witnessed something of a resurgence in Irish whiskey and since then the number of distilleries has slowly started to grow and has really taken off in the last 10 years with 32 distilleries in operation by December 2019 and numerous others in the planning stages. Of the 32 distilleries now in Ireland only 2 had been in production since before 1975 (Bushmills and Middleton).
And so Ireland is making a concerted effort to win back its reputation as well as claw back ground lost to the Scots over the last 100 years. It’s an incredibly exciting time for Irish Whiskey and here at Artisan Ireland we are delighted to play a part in the rebirth of this industry and committed to bring the best of Irish Whiskey to Australia.
When it launched in December 2012 Dingle was the first distillery to be built for a new Irish Whiskey brand for over 100 years. The distillery was the vision and brain child of Oliver Hughes, Liam Lahart and Peter Mosely who had made a huge impact in revitalizing Irish craft brewing having set up the first micro-brew pub in the Republic of Ireland and going on to open several bars in Dublin, London and new York. In order to fund the project ‘The Dingle Founding Fathers’ program was launched which offered the opportunity to purchase 1 of 500 casks. Those that that took this leap of faith now know that it was one of the smartest decisions they’ve ever made.
As Irish Whiskey has to be matured for at least 3 years (by law) it is only in the last few years that we have started to see expressions being released and the consensus is that quality the quality of the most recent releases is validating Dingle’s growing reputation as one of Ireland’s best whiskey producers.
Like many of the new distilleries that have opened in Ireland in recent years there has been an effort to produce Gin as it has a relatively short turn around and can bring in revenue whilst the whiskies are maturing. Rather than playing second fiddle Dingle Gin has proven itself to be a start in its own right and in 2019 was awarded World’s Best Gin and World’s Best London Dry at the World Gin Awards making it the first brand to win both major titles simultaneously.
The recent appointment of Graham Coull as Master Distiller (formerly Glen Moray) provides an unambiguous signal as to the direction, intention and ambition of this exciting Irish Distillery.