Taste of the Irish

And now, this exploration into the "depth and diversity of Irish whiskey."

Irish whiskey
The influence of Irish whiskey can be felt worldwide. Recently, a panel of experts in the Irish whiskey spoke on Philadelphia’s influence when it comes to the popular spirit as well. | Image provided

This past St. Patrick’s season, the Irish American Business Chamber & Network (IABCN) Drinks Ireland, the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States and Tourism Ireland held an event to “explore the depth and diversity of Irish whiskey.”

At the event, Philadelphia Weekly asked: Why should Philadelphians be thankful for Irishmen?

Rob Rae is managing director of Littus, a service-based soft-landing platform facilitating effective entry to the U.S. marketplace. 

“Clearly the Irish have been through a lot,” he said. “The Irish memorial here in Philadelphia is proof of that. We’ve seen it in Ireland in recent years. When we started this business, the recession in Ireland was going strong. The Irish economy has fought its way back. The Irish are returning to Ireland from around the world. The population of the island has grown to over 4 million people. The resilient Irish who have gone to the U.S., Australia and England are not coming home.”

Irish influence is everywhere in Philadelphia. Aficionados from Philly will say perhaps none greater than its rich history in the art of whiskey crafting and distilling. | Image: Terricks Noah

Johnny Harte, creator of Five Farms Irish Cream Liqueur, personified the Irish warrior: “When the Irish came to Philadelphia, they had nothing, and they built the city up and built the population up, and a lot of them worked hard through different decades in the United States. 

“My grand-uncle came here unfortunately in 1929, the year of the Wall Street crash. He started at the bottom; his grandchildren are my second cousins today. They are all very successful, but they worked from the bottom up which is very representative of what the Irish did in Philadelphia. They asked for nothing; we got nothing for nothing, and they worked hard for everything they got.”  

“I am proud of our Philadelphia traditions here. We’ve got a strong Irish community here. The Irish have given much in the way of the arts and literature, but most importantly in the field of drinking, no one can surpass the Irish. We’ve got the greatest of malts, we’ve got the greatest of brews. The whiskey business is proof of that.”

– PJ Stapleton, Philadelphia resident, owner of the Connacht Whiskey Company in Ballina Ireland

John McCullough Jr. with Nightingale Realty, LLC, said he recently had joined the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick in Philadelphia, a social organization for Irish Americans founded in 1771 in Philly. 

“Philadelphia should be grateful for the Irish because they have worked extremely hard since they’ve come to America to the point of being leaders of the industries that they work in, particularly the real estate industry that I work in, and real leaders of the city,” he said.

Rebecca Gardiner immigrated from Ireland a year and a half ago. Brand ambassador for Slane and living in the Boston area, she thinks the question should be: Why are they grateful for us, and why are we grateful for them? 

“The Irish are the ultimate immigrants and you didn’t turn us away,” she said. “It’s a marriage of cultures as well.

“There is a marriage of culture that is phenomenal to see. You look at the [number] of people here. One of the things I love most about the American Irish is that they more than any country in the world value their heritage. That’s a really interesting thing to see – how much people do value their heritage; other countries take it for granted.”      

“This is the No. 3 market in the country for Tullamore Dew. We outsell all the Irish whiskeys combined except for Jameson,” he said.      

Dan Bannister, of William Grant & Sons representing Tullamore Dew, who adds Philly is one of the top markets in the country for Irish population and Irish heritage. 

William Lavelle, president of the Irish Whiskey Association, traveled from his home of Dublin for the event. 

“We love the warmth and the welcome we get from Philadelphia. Our brands and our brand ambassadors, who are all represented here today, will tell you that Philadelphia is a really great market for an Irish whiskey,” he said. “Sales are increasing; people are flocking to Irish whiskey. We are very thankful to Philadelphia people for the support they are showing the Irish whiskey category.”  

  • Erin Flynn Jay is a freelancer covering various topics that inspire her curiosity of Philadelphia and the people that inhabit the City of Brotherly Love.