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Historic McConnell’s Irish Whiskey comes to SA

McConnell’s Irish Whiskey, a cherished Irish brand, is now on local shelves thanks to a new partnership between the Belfast Distillery Company and SA liquor and wine distributor, Firebrand Africa.

With roots tracing back to 1776, McConnell’s Irish Whisky boasts a storied past, founded by the McConnell family, who were revered blenders, bottlers, and distillers in Belfast City over three centuries.

A testament to their success, McConnell’s thrived for more than 150 years, etching its name in the annals of Irish whiskey history. However, the whiskey industry faced its trials in the form of fire, war, political turmoil, and technological advancements, leading to a decline in the 1930s. Fast forward to 2019, and McConnell’s Irish Whisky has undergone a big revival, spreading its wings to over 40 global markets.

The Belfast Distillery Company is also about to inaugurate the new McConnell’s Distillery and Visitor Experience. Housed in a Grade A listed building – a wing of The Crumlin Road Gaol in Belfast.

John Kelly, CE at McConnell’s Irish Whisky (pictured above), who will be on hand to promote its SA launch in coming days, coinciding with the Whisky Live Festival, remarks: “In partnership with Firebrand Africa, we are thrilled to introduce McConnell’s Irish Whisky to South Africa, sharing the rich history and heritage of our brand with this region.

“Our schedule is bustling, with planned visits to Cape Town and our participation in Whisky Live in Johannesburg, where we will present our portfolio of premium products. I’m eager to meet fellow whiskey enthusiasts and share the remarkable journey of McConnell’s Irish Whiskey.”

Carolina van der Horst, MD of Firebrand Africa, says, “We are delighted to welcome McConnell’s into our brand portfolio. John’s presence in South Africa for the launch presents a wonderful opportunity to introduce these premium whiskies to a wider audience, paving the way for exciting new launches and activations in 2024.”

Premium whiskies

During his visit, Kelly will showcase two of McConnell’s award-winning products:

  • The original McConnell’s Irish Whisky 5 Year, a blend of Irish malt and grain whiskies and matured in select bourbon casks, imparting notes of vanilla sweetness, ripe fruits, butterscotch, and pepper spice. This 5-year expression is bottled at 43% ABV.
  • McConnell’s Sherry Cask Finish, aged for five years, initially matured in first-fill select Bourbon barrels and then finished in the Oloroso sherry casks, unveiling aromas of dried figs, dark chocolate, and spice. It is bottled at 46% ABV, non-chill filtered.

In recent years, accolades for McConnell’s 5 Year have been plentiful across Europe and the US, earning 93 points in the Ultimate Spirits Challenge and securing Gold at both the London Spirits Awards and San Francisco World Spirits Competition.

The newly launched Sherry Cask Finish has also garnered global recognition, including Double Platinum at the Ascot Awards, Master at The Spirits Business Irish Whiskey Masters, and Gold at the International Spirits Challenge.

You can meet the McConnell’s team at Stand 14 during Whisky Live Johannesburg, taking place from November 1-3. 2023.

For more information about McConnell’s Irish Whisky, visit

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