Number of Irish distilleries doubles in two years

20th October, 2017 by Amy Hopkins

The number of licensed distilleries in Ireland doubled between 2014 and 2016, while Irish whiskey broke the 100-million bottle barrier last year, according to a new report.

Irish whiskey is the fastest growing spirits category in the world

The report is said to be the first industry and market analysis on Irish spirits and was complied by the Irish Spirits Association (ISA).

It shows that the number of licensed distilleries in Ireland doubled between 2014 and 2016 to 18 – there are an estimated 16 more in the planning or construction stage. Five years ago, only four distilleries operated across Ireland.

Data in the report shows that the value of Irish spirits exports increased by 6.1% in 2016 to €805 million (about US$950m). Global sales of Ireland’s GI spirits – Irish whiskey, Irish cream and Poitín – totalled nearly 16 million cases, or 200 million bottles, in 2016.

Irish whiskey sales grew by 11.3% in 2016 to reach 8.7 million cases, breaking the 100-million bottle barrier and solidifying its position as the world’s fastest growing spirit category.

A total of 8.2m cases of Irish whiskey were exported in 2017. This figure is expected to exceed 12m cases by 2020.

Despite the export success of Irish whiskey, gin is the fastest growing spirit category among Irish consumers, with growth of 31.6% in 2016. Sales have fallen for vodka, but it remains the most consumed spirit in Ireland.

Total consumption of spirits in Ireland has fallen by 19.2% over the past decade.

William Lavelle, head of the Irish Spirits Association, urged governments to protect Ireland’s three All-Island GIs: Irish whiskey, Irish cream and Poitín.

“This report paints a bright picture of a dynamic industry with a vast economic footprint,” he said. “The spirits sector is a major employer and a significant supporter of Irish farmers. It is an industry that can deliver even more exports, more jobs and more domestic sourcing if we’re allowed.”

Lavelle also warned that the industry faces a “major threat” from the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, which will ban images of people, animals, scenic shots of Ireland and scenes in pubs from appearing in alcohol advertisements

“These draconian restrictions will make it hard for new players to enter the market, as they won’t be able to market their products,” he added.

The Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland (ABFI) recently released data valuing Ireland’s drink exports at €527 million (US$629m) for the first six months of this year.

An infographic showing the growth of Irish spirits

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