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Inventing new ice cream flavors in Ireland

Inventing new ice cream flavors in Ireland
Kieran Murphy ´89 in front of Murphys Ice Cream, which he opened with his brother, Sean, in Dingle, Ireland, in 2000. Photo by Catherine Karnow

Kieran Murphy ´89

by Rachel Harrington

Cooking with bleu cheese, caramelized shallots or jalapeno peppers isn´t too unusual — unless you´re making ice cream.

Kieran Murphy ´89 and his brother, Sean, who opened Murphys Ice Cream in Dingle, Ireland, in 2000, are never afraid to experiment.

“Perhaps our strangest flavor was green pea and mint, which we did as a special request for a wedding,” Kieran says.

While growing up in New York, the Murphy brothers cooked alongside their aunt whenever they could. Still, Kieran had no idea that he´d make a career out of food.

After studying philosophy at Connecticut College, Murphy worked as a marketing director for a software company in Boston. “It didn´t suit me at all,” he says.

He began spending more time in Ireland after his parents bought a vacation house in Kerry, and he fell in love with the country. Murphy, whose father was born in Ireland, decided to move to the Emerald Isle and start an ice cream business with his brother.

“There was almost no super-premium ice cream in the country, and it seemed an obvious niche,” Murphy says.
Murphys Ice Cream sells traditional flavors but is well known for its creative offerings. The brothers often work with flowers, combining white chocolate and rosewater as well as honey and lavender. They frequently use alcohol too, creating flavors such as Guinness and chocolate chip, coconut and rum, and Champagne sorbet.

Though Sean had taken an ice cream course at Penn State and Kieran had taken a class about chocolate in France, the brothers are mostly self-trained.

“I think the most important thing for any kind of cooking is to have strong opinions in terms of what you like and what you don´t like,” Murphy says. “That gives you something to work toward.”

Murphy says taking writing courses with Blanche Boyd, the Roman and Tatiana Weller Professor of English, helped him recently when he and Sean wrote Book of Sweet Things, an ice cream recipe book. He also credits Kristin Pfefferkorn-Forbath, associate professor of philosophy, who “was a real inspiration in terms of opening up the mind,” helping him take the leap to start his own business.

Today Murphys Ice Cream supplies around 40 shops in Ireland, and the brothers own two of their own, in Dingle and Killarney. Murphy credits their success to their product.

“People come in to us because they are happy or because they want to be happy,” he says. “Nobody needs ice cream. It´s a special treat.”

Their ice cream has received rave reviews. The RTÉ Guide calls the Murphys “the Ben and Jerrys of Ireland,” while Elizabeth Albertson writes in Ireland for Dummies, “I would consider moving to Dingle Town just for Murphys Ice Cream.”

Murphy says that while he wouldn´t mind seeing Murphys Ice Cream expand, he and his brother aren´t driven to become “super rich or globally successful.”

“As long and we´re having fun and can support ourselves, we´re happy enough as it is,” he says.

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