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Just the job as Japan gets a thirst for whiskey

WELL-heeled whiskey connoisseurs in Japan, Korea and China have developed a taste for the 'cratur' -- a drop of the hard stuff.

Sales of Irish Distillers' (IDL) flagship product, Jameson, have reached record levels in the US but also in the cash-rich markets of the Far East.

It has led to a €100m expansion of its main distillery in Midleton, Co Cork, and the creation of 60 new jobs.

Sales of Jameson rose by 18pc last year, and are expected to exceed that for this year.

Whiskey expert and author of the '2012 Whisky Bible', Jim Murray, said Irish distillers had found an international following in the past 12-14 years that they didn't have before.

Irish whiskey is seen as a status drink in these new markets and is sought out by connoisseurs. Of the three million cases of Jameson sold last year, more than 33pc went to the US market.

But what has astonished IDL's French owners, Pernod-Ricard, is the demand for Irish whiskey across the Far East and former Soviet Bloc.

Sales to Russia, Ukraine and Poland are understood to be running at double-digit growth levels each year -- while sales to Japan, Korea and China are also running at strong levels.

The new jobs were confirmed just months after IDL announced it was pressing ahead with a €100m expansion of its whiskey maturing capacity with a new plant at Dungourney in east Cork.

The construction phase will generate 250 jobs over a 15-month period -- and, when the 60 permanent jobs come on stream, IDL's overall workforce will rise to 560.

Meanwhile, the unemployed man who marketed himself on a billboard as 'Jobless Paddy' after 10 months on the dole has secured a permanent contract.

Feilim Mac An Iomaire (26), from Galway, took matters into his own hands last May after spending his €2,000 savings on a double-sided billboard in Dublin in the hopes of luring potential employers to hire him.

He saw it as a last-ditch attempt to find work at home before emigrating.

His gamble paid off when a fellow Paddy -- bookmaker Paddy Power -- offered him a six-month temporary contract.

And now he has just signed a lucrative permanent contract to stay with the gambling giant.

"I heard the news earlier this week but everything got signed, sealed and delivered today. It's like Christmas has come early to be honest.

"The money isn't really important to me; it's just all about the experience," he said yesterday.

Irish Independent