R&A Bailey, the Dublin-based subsidiary of Grand Metropolitan famous for its Irish cream liqueur, has begun test marketing its newly-developed Irish whiskey product in the Dublin market.
As first revealed late last year in the Irish Independent, Baileys have been working on a top secret project to complement the cream liqueur brand by separately marketing the Irish whiskey element of the liqueur product.
The company yesterday unveiled the product following two years of intensive research by a core team of up to 30 executives, researchers and designers and a spend to date of at least £500,000.
The new spirit, called ``Baileys The Whiskey'' will go on sale to the public in 35 key licensed premises in Dublin from this week. These outlets will include pubs such as Doheny & Nesbits and Kehoe's of South Anne Street; hotels such as the Shelbourne, Burlington and Clarence and nightclubs such as the Pod.
From March 16 it will also be be available at selected off licences, where a 700ml bottle priced at £15.69 will be aimed at the premium end of the market.
In June, the product will be extended to other large urban areas throughout Ireland, while it should be available in every major licensed or off-licensed premises nationwide by the end of the year. The first international launch is currently scheduled for mid-1999.
According to the company the same blended whiskey product as is currently used for the cream liqueur, will be used in ``Baileys the Whiskey''.
``Irish Distillers have an excellent reputation in distillation and have supplied the whiskeys for Baileys Original Irish Cream for many years, so it made sense to continue that successful supply relationship into this new venture,'' said David Phelan, the director of R&A Bailey, responsible for the project.
``Our finishing process now moves a step forward within that tradition by extending the maturation process by up to six months in oak casks that once housed the Baileys spirit blend. The result displays both the unmistakable character of great Irish whiskey and a distinctive nose, reminiscent of Baileys Original Irish Cream.''
He said the principal reason the new spirit was developed was to strengthen the core cream liqueur brand, broaden its appeal and perhaps introduce it to new audiences.
``In that sense, `Baileys the Whiskey' is a brand extension rather than a new brand as was the case with Sheridans.
``But whatever the product requires in terms of high quality branding support, will be provided in most of the key markets where the cream liqueur is a major seller. The only limitation on its potential would be if the tail started wagging the dog, in other words if its success began to impact on the mother brand.''
He said the new whiskey would constitute one of the strategic brand support mechanisms, which Baileys envisaged would push global sales of the cream liqueur from 4.1 million cases in the past year to about 5 million cases by the end of the decade.
The packaging of the new whiskey, including a curvaceous bottle and a lyrical ode to the sprit penned by John B Keane, was targetted, he said, at the 25-35 age group - at those who were looking for a new and exciting drink, which imparted the traditional qualities of premium Irish whiskey but with a new smoothness.
``The drink has already been researched using specially selected consumer tasting panels here, in the UK and in Spain. The reactions were extremely positive. Men took to the aroma and taste instantly and women were attracted to that smoothness.''
Explaining the rationale behind its gradual introduction, he said it was only right that ``Bailey's the Whiskey'' should receive its first outing in Dublin.
``It is, after all, the home of R&A Bailey and where we launched our original Irish cream, 23 years ago.