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Johnny harte

Five Farms cream liqueur: an Irish success story

Co-founder Johnny Harte shares the story behind the luxury Irish cream liqueur. Brought to you in partnership with Five Farms.


With decades of experience in the drinks industry, Donegal man Johnny Harte has a keen eye for an opportunity.

Some years ago he had an idea for a super premium or, to use trade parlance, an über premium Irish cream liqueur. After a few discarded attempts it all started to come together in 2017. During a conversation with Mick Harris, President of McCormicks Distilling in the USA Johnny got the go-ahead to come up with something. 

He went back to his past ideas to nail down the ethos he had in mind. The aim was to come up with an authentic product that would sit comfortably in the über premium category. “I wanted to create an artisan product that went back to the basics and fundamentals of cream liqueur,” Johnny explains.

He presented his idea in June 2017 and it was all go from there. From the off, quality was at the heart of Five Farms. “There was no point in doing it unless we were going to use the best,” he says, “And everything we use is the best – the highest quality cream, the most Irish whiskey we can include in a cream liqueur [10x other brands], and the highest cream content. We went to Madagascar for our natural vanilla extract. This is the Formula One of cream liqueurs.”

Along with Irish whiskey, Five Farms contains cream from five family-run dairy farms in Co Cork (hence its name). The bottle design is a nod to milk containers of old and a reminder of the quality of ingredients and farm-to-table ethos.

When first launching Five Farms in the USA, the team went to farmers markets and county shows to promote the brand. It was also put through its paces in a number of independent restaurants. “They scrutinise what they serve to their customers and they wanted to make sure that what we were saying was authentic,” Johnny explains. Soon it was clear to Johnny that they were on to a winner. “We were blown away by the reaction,” he says. “We only made one container initially and sent it into the market in the States that Christmas. I went out in January, for what I thought would be a bit of a hard sell, and I couldn’t find a bottle in any shop. It had sold out completely.  One shop told me they’d had a raffle for the last bottles in the case. I’ve never had that experience in 25-odd years in the business and I don’t expect to have that experience again in my life. That was unique.” 

Five Farms is now the fastest-growing new Irish drinks brand in the USA, having had year-on-year growth of 87 per cent. That success looks set to be replicated on this side of the pond too. The drink has been warmly received in Ireland – “It’s been a welcome surprise, how well it’s done in Ireland,” Johnny says – and has just launched in the UK, counting luxury department store Harrods among its stockists. 

Five Farms has also picked up many awards in its first three years including the Gold Medal for ‘Ireland’s Best Liqueur’ at the 2020 Blas na hÉireann awards. All in all, Johnny couldn’t be happier with how it's been received. “I wanted to marry my experience in the whiskey industry with my experience in the cream liqueur industry and that’s what Five Farms is - an overnight success after 25 years!” FW

Five Farms, RRP €34.95, is available in Supervalu, Centra, O’Brien’s Off Licences, and independent outlets nationwide; fivefarmsirishcream.com