• EUR100m (US$145m) investment planned
  • Jameson demand booming
  • Fresh focus on single pot still whiskeys

Pernod Ricard's Irish Distillers division has brought forward plans to invest EUR100m (US$145m) to double capacity at its Midleton distillery in Ireland.

The unit expects to increase the distillery's capacity to just over 60m litres of alcohol per year, compared to the current 33m-litre maximum, within the next two years.

Strong demand for Jameson, particularly in the US, has forced the group to bring forward its investment plan to keep up with demand. The move will also provide for anticipated growth in the group's single pot still whiskeys.

"Even 12 or 18 months ago, we were not expecting to have to increase our capacity so quickly," Midleton's master distiller, Barry Crockett, told just-drinks last night (5 May).

Jameson's net sales increased by 22% for the first nine months of Pernod's fiscal year, to the end of March, the French drinks maker announced in its third quarter trading statement yesterday. Irish Distillers' CEO, Alex Ricard, said demand for Jameson, which has recently reached 1m cases in the US alone, is "marvellous".

Ricard made his comments during a dinner at the Midleton distillery to mark the launch of Irish Distillers' renewed focus on single pot still whiskeys. Alongside relaunching Redbreast and Green Spot, the group has launched two high-end single pot still whiskeys, Powers John's Lane and Midleton Barry Crockett Legacy.

The firm is keen to renew consumers' interest in single pot still Irish whiskeys after many decades of decline for the expressions. According to Alex Ricard, the company has a 22-year launch programme mapped out. "Every single year we will have a few new releases and innovations," he said.

Crockett believes Irish whiskey can learn lessons from the rise of single malt whiskies in Scotland. "Single malt Scotch was unheard of 40 years ago," he said. "We believe that single pot still whiskeys can do for us for what single malts did for Scotch."

As part of the EUR100m distillery expansion, Midleton will increase its capacity for single pot still whiskeys from around 10m litres of alcohol to 22m. 

Separately, Irish Distillers will also expand warehouse facilities. Last month, it acquired land at Dungourney, around nine kilometres from Midleton, where it intends to build around 20 warehouses. It currently has 38 on the Midleton distillery site and has been adding two new warehouses per year for the past several years.