Irish gourmet ice cream gets the cream
To introduce their ice cream, the Murphys rented a small shop on Strand Street in Dingle town, using the front half as a shop/café and the rear as the production area. In their first year of business, Sean and Kieran had to do a lot of explaining to the local Dingle customers who constantly asked: “Why does this ice cream cost twice as much as the ice cream at the supermarket?” The concept of using top-shelf ingredients in ice cream had to be experienced.
Once the locals tasted the product, the higher price was not an issue. The Irish, who return again and again to indulge in the gourmet ice cream, comprise 60% of the total business. There is no explanation needed for the visitors from the US, France, Italy, and other countries who make up 40% of the clientele.
With the success of Murphys Ice Cream shop in Dingle, expansion was inevitable. The production area at the back of the shop was transferred in 2003 to a purpose-built factory outside of town, within view of the grazing cows that contribute to the success. Besides the Murphys, the factory employs two full-time staff and produces ice cream to supply leading restaurants and shops all over Ireland. A second Murphy-owned shop opened in 2005 on Main Street, Killarney, and recently two more opened shops in Dublin at 27 Wicklow St. and Temple Bar Square.
All the Murphy shops, outfitted with distinctive blue and white décor in the style of an old-fashioned ice cream parlor, offer 16 different flavors of ice cream. Flavors range from banana with chocolate shavings to rum raisin, chocolate whiskey truffle, brown bread and Guinness, chocolate coffee bean crunch, white chocolate and rosewater, caramel honeycomb, and cookies and cream, made with Oreo cookies. For summer, there is a new and distinctive sea salt ice cream with a “sweet taste of the sea.” For chocoholics, pure chocolate ice cream is always available, as is a vanilla, made with vanilla beans in a rich custard base, baring no resemblance to the supermarket flavor.
Dairy-free choices include raspberry, lemon-lime, mango or pink champagne sorbet. The shops also offer a variety of sundaes such as a “Titanic Banana Split,” made with banana, three scoops of ice cream, warm chocolate sauce, toppings and cream. Sean hints that they are working on a few sugar-free options for the future.
With the ground broken for high-end ice cream in Ireland, the Murphy brothers have also attracted competition (both Ben & Jerry’s and Häagen-Dazs sell their products in Ireland), and several other local Irish firms have begun producing handmade ice cream including Linnalla Pure Irish Ice Cream at New Quay, Co. Clare (www.linnalla.com), and Corrin Hill Real Dairy Ice Cream at Fermoy, Co. Cork (www.corrinhill.ie).