Irish Whiskey Merchanting: The Business Behind the Booze


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I thought writing a little blog about the business of Irish whiskey would be easy. I’d do 10 minutes of research, then spout off a bunch of facts relevant to the business behind the booze. Wrong.

For one, Irish whiskey must be made in Ireland. We know that much, right? But what about all the other costs associated with starting an Irish whiskey distillery, like the Dingle Distillery?

So, imagine that you are sitting around the Irish pub with a few of your buddies when one of you has the great idea to brew your own booze. Fantastic. What next?

First, you need to get the appropriate permits. You’ll need to find a piece of acceptable real estate to operate out of and secure all the equipment. Next, you need to hire a few folks to run the brewing process and start importing all the grains (like barley) in order to brew your Irish whiskey.

After your first batch has been distilled (had the alcohol pulled out), you’re finally ready to store your product for aging. Roll out the barrels and pack them to the brim. You’ll store your Irish whiskey in a cool, dry warehouse over the next several years so the flavors can meld.

(You accounted for warehousing space when you chose the location right? Temperature controlled space where your product will just sit, not making you any money, but taking up valuable space for years and years to come … )

And what do you do while you’re waiting for the Irish whiskey to mature? Well, the Dingle Distillery is making vodka and gin, two liquors that are quick and easy to bring to market. These products will keep a few profits rolling in while the real money maker (Irish whiskey) is aging.

Other merchanting concepts might include an onsite Irish pub or restaurant. If you have a pretty place, you may be able to host weddings and offer catered events. These are little factors that can play into your Irish whiskey merchanting to, hopefully, keep your bottom line in the black while you get started.

Okay, so it’s been 5, 10 or 15 years and you are finally ready to bottle your Irish whiskey. You pull it down from the rack but low and behold you’ve lost a percentage of your goods to science. Yup, the barrel itself (typically made of wood) sucked up some of your product and evaporation eliminated even more. What now?

Well, you’ll take what’s left to the bottling facility. Here, you’ll package the Irish whiskey for sale to the outside world. (You remembered to buy bottles, right? And labels?)

Now, if you’ve done things correctly, you already have your buyers lined up. Your Irish whiskey people will have spoken to wholesalers and/or directly to suppliers to ensure exactly who will be buying this product that was several years in the making.

Off goes your precious cargo to the correct locations while you, finally, sit down and enjoy a glass of the good stuff. Probably with a cigar and probably with a sigh of relief that, thank heavens, your business is flowing as smoothly as your Irish whiskey.

And here, exactly, lies our point about the business behind the booze; Irish whiskey merchanting is no joke. It is the science, business, price-setting and exhausting sales of a product that may or may not be delicious once it’s completed. It is understanding why you simply can’t make a mistake in the careful calculations since so much is at stake with one little error (i.e. not accounting for evaporation.)

You see, a million things can also go wrong in the brewing and aging process. Oh, yeah, and let’s not forget the taxes to import Irish whiskey to other countries, plus state taxes to sell it or have a license to serve it. Before you know it, it’s fairly clear why there aren’t any easy resources available to explain how it works… Might make you a little more appreciative of that glass of whiskey on your nextvacation to Ireland.

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