Bringing award-winning Irish whiskey around the world

With a rich heritage and focus on craftsmanship, Hyde Irish Whiskey has set itself apart from its peers – and has the awards to back it up

Conor Hyde, owner, Hyde Irish Whiskey: ‘We’re at the forefront of pioneering Irish whiskey sales growth in new markets such as Nigeria, Turkey, Taiwan, Korea, China and Japan.’ Picture: Martina Regan

Now exporting to over 65 markets and having 23 whiskeys in its range, Hyde Irish Whiskey has continuously expanded and developed since the Hyde family first started to bond and age whiskey in 1640 at ‘Tinkers Cross’, just outside Bandon in West Cork.

Hyde is a company that has received numerous accolades over the years. In 2023 alone, it took home Southern Exporter of the Year at the LEO National Enterprise Awards, and was nominated as Exporter of the Year in the Irish Family Business Awards, Irish Exporters Association Awards, and the Small Firms Association awards. In short, it’s been a strong year for the company.

Hyde Irish Whiskey

Number of staff: 12+

Turnover: €3m+

“We’re growing in double-digit figures every year, and have been adding a number of new export markets every year, and that’s our focus,” said Conor Hyde, owner of Hyde Irish Whiskey

“Our strategy is to grow in markets where Irish whiskey is growing, but not a lot of Irish brands are established yet. So we’re at the forefront of pioneering Irish whiskey sales growth in new markets such as Nigeria, Turkey, Taiwan, Korea, China and Japan.”

Picking markets where Irish whiskey is not yet well established or saturated has proven to be a major contributing factor to the firm’s success.

The main selling point of Hyde Irish whiskey is its family heritage, craftsmanship and attention to cask wood management, which countries like Japan and China have a very strong appreciation for.

With its mantra being ‘It’s all about the wood’, Hyde focuses on matching its whiskey with the perfect cask wood to help deliver the best possible taste for markets with a strong appreciation for whiskey craftsmanship, which makes all the difference.

“Over the last ten years we have won every major taste award out there in all the top independent spirit competitions across the world, including the ‘Oscars’ of the whiskey world at the San Francisco spirits awards, as well as the World Whiskies Award, the Irish Whiskey Awards, and the Ultimate Spirits Challenge,” Hyde said.

One of the other major benefits of being in new markets like Turkey, Korea and China is the level of innovation that comes with this experience. Hyde regularly gets requests from its importers to develop rare single cask whiskey expressions and bespoke label designs.

One recent example concerned its launch in Asia, creating a ‘Year of the Dragon’ whiskey expression to coincide with the 2024 Chinese New Year. Hyde says this type of Irish whiskey innovation only comes from building close relationships with customers and understanding local consumer preferences in each export market.

This focus on bespoke cask finishes and wood management, using local oak casks from export markets, has helped separate Hyde from the hundreds or other Irish whiskey brands on the market by providing it with stronger unique selling points.

“Bigger brands have to pump out large volumes of whiskey on a daily basis, whereas we create whiskey on a small batch scale with bespoke cask finishes that the big boys just can’t do,” he explained. “The larger players are just not set up like us to do limited edition cask finishes.

Hyde is firmly focused on sustainability, having achieved Origin Green certification for the last five years. It partners only with businesses and suppliers that commit significantly to safeguarding the environment and community well-being.

While it has been established for many years, this is the first time Hyde Irish Whiskey has engaged in EIIS. It is currently 100 per cent family-owned and internally funded, with no external investors and no dilution of the company equity.

“This is our first time looking to get more capital into the business to help us fund our current rapid expansion,” Hyde explained.

“We are growing so rapidly that we need more whiskey stocks, and it’s an expensive business to lay down whiskey casks for many years . . . our whiskey has to be at least five or six years old before it tastes good enough to put the Hyde name on the bottle.”

This EIIS capital investment will go into international expansion, where Hyde plans to add five new markets per year for the next five years, targeting export markets in South America, Africa and Asia, which are big markets with massive potential for Irish whiskey to grow in rapidly.

“The majority of EIIS capital investment is going to go into maturing new-make whiskey stocks, and some will be spent on further sales support for our expansion in new markets with the support of Hyde brand ambassadors working closely on the ground with our importation partners,” said Hyde.

“Our strategy is to carefully research and appoint just one exclusive importer in each market and make them part of the Hyde family. We work very closely with each importer to slowly build sales through their understanding of local market nuances.”