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Decent drop: Velvet Cap

Decent drop: Velvet Cap

Decent drop: Velvet Cap

Sales of Irish whiskey jumped almost 11pc last year to reach 12 million cases.

The three most popular whiskeys were old favourites known to most drinkers: Jameson, Tullamore Dew and Bushmills. In an indication of just how powerful marketing has become, the fourth biggest brand was Conor McGregor's Proper No. Twelve.

While McGregor's rather indifferent whiskey was far behind the top three, the fighter's drink still managed to outsell classics dating back more than a century such as Paddy, Powers and Redbreast.

Quite what the coronavirus pandemic will mean for the long-term future of the whiskey industry is anybody's guess, but right now Ireland's smaller producers are still bringing out new whiskeys

Two new blended whiskeys were launched in recent weeks: Velvet Cap from the Blackwater in Co Waterford and a limited-edition rum-cask whiskey from the Grace O'Malley brand in Co Mayo.

Both of them are blended from a combination of malt and grain whiskeys that have been bought from other distilleries and both plan to operate a visitor centre. There's nothing wrong with that, but it is a reminder that our fledgling independent whiskey makers are still very dependent on one another and on good marketing for survival.

Grace O'Malley's owners don't make whiskey; they buy it from the Great Northern Distillery and then mature and blend the spirit to create unusual whiskeys.

Their rum cask whiskey (€65) is the best blend I have yet tasted from this particular distiller. Previous bottles from the same distillery seemed overly expensive, with too high an alcohol content for my tastes, but this new blend, with fudge and banana notes and a hint of rum is delicious.

Like Grace O'Malley, Velvet Cap (€40) stays silent about the age of the whiskeys used in the maturation process, but Velvet Cap is also a decent drop that is worth a try when you are tired of the big three, although it is unlikely to push Conor McGregor from his perch at number four in the Irish whiskey world.

Sunday Indo Life Magazine