Whiskies - 2023
Born to a farming family in Co Tipperary, Ireland, Bernard Walsh spent 16 years working in the IT industry in London before he and wife Rosemary founded Walsh Whiskey in 1999.
Their first product, an Irish coffee liqueur called The Hot Irishman, secured Bernard an entrepreneurial award. However, spotting early signs of growth in the world of Irish whiskey, the couple decided to take the company in a new direction, founding whiskey brands The Irishman and Writers’ Tears in 2006 and 2009 respectively. The portfolio of pot still whiskeys through Writers’ Tears and single malts through The Irishman have garnered the company more than 100 international awards and are now sold in more than 50 countries.
As well as being in the vanguard of the Irish whiskey revival through these brands, Bernard was a leading figure at the Royal Oak Distillery, one of Ireland’s largest independent distilleries. Between 2013 and 2019 he designed, built, and operated the distillery – which, uniquely, makes three types of Irish whiskey (pot still, malt, and grain) under one roof and in the same distilling room.
Bernard’s experimental approach to cask finishing has seen him travel the world in search of unique casks, with one of his stand-out creations in this vein being the first ice wine cask-finished Irish whiskey. His progressive outlook also led him to become an early adopter of e-labelling, an initiative to give consumers more information about the food and drink they consume, and to introduce braille on the packaging of The Irishman range.
Alongside his work on his own brands, Bernard is a tireless campaigner for Irish whiskey at large. He is a founding member of the Irish Whiskey Association, serving as its chairman from 2014–2016, and in 2019 he was invited to serve as a board director of Drinks Ireland, the industry body for alcoholic drinks manufacturers and suppliers in the country.
Walsh Whiskey was sold to Luxembourg-based Amber Beverage Group in November 2021, but Bernard continues in his role as managing director, focusing on product development and innovation for The Irishman and Writers’ Tears.