Chatting with the boss at Jameson Whiskey, Claire Tolan


As managing director for Ireland of Irish Distillers, Claire Tolan has been responsible for the distribution of the Pernod Ricard portfolio of wines and spirits in the country since 2018.

Claire grew up in the coastal town of Malahide in Dublin, and her career began in 1998 when she joined the Jameson Graduate Programme. She spent time as brand ambassador in San Francisco and held a number of commercial roles in the US, before joining the international commercial team for Jameson in 2007.

“I would say that I’m an igniter – great at getting things started – which has served me well working for Irish Distillers,” she says. “I’m also a very positive person, which helps in all aspects of life.”

One of Claire’s proudest accomplishments was overseeing the €11m redevelopment of Jameson Bow St. Distillery, which was named the world’s leading distillery tour at the World Travel Awards in 2018 and 2019.

“I absolutely loved working on the redevelopment,” she says. “We have had the privilege of calling Bow Street home since 1780, so it was really important that we got it right. Thankfully, it was a huge success and Jameson Distillery Bow St. and Jameson Distillery Midleton welcomed more than 500,000 visitors from 70 countries last year.”

Claire’s current role is centred around the firm’s domestic business, and Jameson achieved its 30th year of consecutive growth last year with sales of 7.7m. This represents an increase of 7.2m cases compared to the mid ’90s, and Claire believes that the company’s dedication to innovation has helped to drive sales.

She is married with three boys, and says that while life is very busy, she has a good support network in place. “Flexible and smart working also plays a big part and I’m lucky to have an employer who supports that,” she says. “The first step is being organised, which means tightly managing my diary. I attend a lot of meetings, but I make sure that I allow time for action and, more importantly, thinking.”

Managing stress for Claire means having balance, where possible, and this includes using all of her holiday allocation. As her father is from Mayo, she loves going to the west of Ireland and spending time in Crossmolina and Westport. While the country is beautiful, she firmly believes that Ireland has an added attraction. “Irish people are friendly and we’re happy to interact and have the craic, and visitors love that,” she says.