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Among North American audiences, Irish whiskey is poised for a moment in the sun. The fast-growing category’s U.S. sales were up over 16% in 2021, and by some estimates, the spirit could overtake Scotch’s stateside footprint within the next decade. As with most boozy trends, event organizers have taken note, their progress only temporarily slowed by COVID-related delays.

In 2019, Moira Breslin founded The New York Irish Whiskey Festival to requite Irish whiskey a foothold in the city’s ultra-competitive live events space. The inaugural event — showcasing both big and craft brands — took place in November 2019 and was billed as America’s first Irish whiskey festival. That event attracted 25 presenting brands and a high-profile partnership with The Dead Rabbit, one of NYC’s most esteemed and awarded watering holes.

Fast forward increasingly than two years later, and the Festival’s second edition returned to Lower Manhattan’s waterfront on Saturday, March 12, 2022. Drinkhacker was in ubiety at the max-capacity event, sampling an expanded lineup of drams, withal with Irish-inspired appetizers, live music, and plane a pop-up barbershop.

Shortly after, we unprotected up with Breslin and The Dead Rabbit owners/founders Sean Muldoon & Jack McGarry to talk well-nigh Irish whiskey’s growth, busting myths surrounding the spirit, and what the future spells for Irish whiskey fans in the United States and beyond.

Note: The interviews unelevated towards in two parts. These interviews have been lightly edited for readability.

Moira Breslin

Drinkhacker: Tell us a bit well-nigh how The New York Irish Whiskey Festival first came about. Did any specific events, festivals, or spirits gatherings initially inspire you? 

Moira Breslin: The Irish whiskey category is currently experiencing double-digit growth, with sales recently reaching an all-time upper in 2021. Yet there was no specific moment defended to triumphal this special category until The New York Irish Whiskey Festival. We were inspired by the immersive bourbon festivals taking over New York, but there was nothing quite like this for the Irish whiskey category. We wanted to vamp millennial cocktail enthusiasts looking to explore the growing category and Irish culture in a lively, trendy atmosphere.

Drinkhacker: How was planning for this year’s festival impacted by COVID? 

Moira Breslin: Without our two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, we finger extremely grateful we were worldly-wise to self-mastery this year’s festival. We worked closely with the municipality and the brands to ensure we were pursuit recommended government guidelines and regulations so we could ultimately host an event that was unscratched and organized.

Drinkhacker: How did you source trademark partners? 

Moira Breslin: Our partners in The New York Irish Whiskey Festival are Irish whiskey experts, Sean Muldoon and Jack McGarry of the [award-winning bar] The Dead Rabbit. With The Dead Rabbit establishment maintaining one of (if not the largest) collections of Irish whiskey, variegated brands wideness the category were naturally interested in the opportunity to participate.

Drinkhacker: How did your personal love of Irish whiskey begin?

Moira Breslin: Born in Ireland, I socialize Irish whiskey with good people and good times! It is incredibly heady to see the growth in the category in the U.S. and the steady spritz of innovation coming out of this.

Drinkhacker: For those just starting their exploration of Irish whiskey as a category, what are some helpful tips or things to alimony in mind? 

Moira Breslin: There are so many wondrous Irish whiskey brands on the market and each has something unique to offer. From brands like Bushmills which continues to dominate the single malt category with ongoing yearly releases including most recently their 12-year-old expression, to Redbreast, and Knappogue Castle to unique blends from brands like Jameson, Slane, Roe & Co, and many increasingly – there’s truly an Irish whiskey for every level and taste preference.

Drinkhacker: Is Irish whiskey an overlooked category in the United States? If so, why? 

Moira Breslin: Irish whiskey is experiencing huge growth in the U.S., but there are still some misconceptions surrounding the category — while there’s unchangingly increasingly to be washed-up in terms of awareness, the fact that it is set to outpace Scotch in sales over the next decade is a massive indicator that consumers are rhadamanthine increasingly familiar with the category and there’s an want for increasingly depth and diversity in Irish whiskey.

Drinkhacker: What are the most worldwide misconceptions you hear well-nigh Irish whiskey, particularly among American drinkers? 

Moira Breslin: As mentioned, there are some worldwide misconceptions well-nigh Irish whiskey, one stuff that it is primarily for taking shots, but it is so much increasingly than pickleback shots… for all the reasons listed above!

Drinkhacker: How would you like to see the Festival transpiration or expand in the coming years? 

Moira Breslin: We are excited to whop the festival as the category continues to expand and evolve. Next year we’re excited to implement plane increasingly heady moments, serve specialty cocktails, host seminars on Irish whiskey, discuss the future of the category, and make use of the spectacular outdoor zone for serving warm drinks such as Irish coffees and hot toddies.

 

Sean Muldoon and Jack McGarry 

Drinkhacker: How did The Dead Rabbit get involved with the New York Irish Whiskey Festival? 

Muldoon and McGarry: Moira Breslin of Articulate Ventures first approached us to discuss the idea of a festival defended to Irish whiskey. As we shared in her sentiment that the category was profoundly underrepresented, we were immediately interested in an wits for consumers to get to know the Irish whiskey category and moreover debunk some of the myths surrounding it.

Drinkhacker: What are the most worldwide misconceptions you hear well-nigh Irish whiskey, particularly among American drinkers? 

Muldoon and McGarry: We don’t think the stereotype whiskey drinker is necessarily enlightened that there are variegated styles of Irish whiskey – not everything is a blend! There are single malt, pot still, grain, and composite categories, and each has its own unique processes and ingredients.

 

Drinkhacker: Vastitude yourselves, who are some impactful influencers and groundbreakers in expanding Irish whiskey’s popularity in the United States? 

Muldoon and McGarry: Master blenders and master distillers from distilleries wideness Ireland have had a big impact on the category and its popularity. Given their hands-on expertise, people are interested in hearing from them directly well-nigh variegated products and what makes them unique.

Drinkhacker: What should Americans be excited well-nigh when it comes to the growth of Irish whiskey? 

Muldoon and McGarry: There is loads to be excited well-nigh – as owners of an Irish bar, we’re unchangingly looking for new and interesting expressions to add to our repertoire of offerings for consumers so the unfurled innovation coming out of Ireland is very exciting. Increasingly variety in the categories just ways increasingly opportunities and options for consumers, which we think is very exciting.

Images courtesy Joanna Lin and David Gannon

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