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Irish whiskey ‘on target’ to reach 12m cases by 2020

The Irish whiskey industry is “on target” to reach its 2020 goal to grow sales to 12 million cases, the Irish Whiskey Association (IWA) has said.

Irish whiskey
Irish whiskey is the world’s fastest growing spirits category

Speaking at the Heritage Malting Barley Seminar in Celbridge, Co Kildare, this week, William Lavelle, head of the IWA, said the industry’s 2014 target to double Irish whiskey sales from six million cases to 12m by 2020 is “on target to being met and exceeded”.

As the world’s fastest-growing spirits category, it is estimated that almost 120m bottles (10m cases) of Irish whiskey were sold in 2017, worth more than €600m (US$716m) in exports – a 20% increase on 2016.

To keep up with demand, Lavelle stressed the importance of ensuring a sustainable future supply of barley and malt.

He welcomed the Department of Agriculture’s recommendations for more innovation in the tillage sector and closer collaboration between farmers, maltsters and distillers, which was included in its ‘Future of the Tillage Sector in Ireland’ plan.

Lavelle said: “In 2014 there were just four whiskey distilleries in the country. Today there are 18 and we expect that number to surpass 30 by 2020 to meet growing international demand.

“The growth of the Irish whiskey industry is good news not only for the distillers, but for business owners in supporting industries, including tillage farmers and maltsters.

“The challenge is making sure that supply meets demand, and that producers across industries have the means to work together.”

In 2016, the Irish drinks industry acquired 220,000 tonnes of malted and unmalted Irish barley, accounting for 15% of the Irish barley harvest. A total of 85,000 tonnes of malted and unmalted Irish barley were bought by Irish whiskey distilleries.

No fewer than 15 Irish whiskey firms have signed up to Origin Green, pledging to source grains from within the country in order to support Irish farmers.

However, Lavelle added: “In the long term, we need more barley supply, a greater variety of grains and continuing growth in terms of the capacity and diversity of malt supply in Ireland.”

Last year, Mark Reynier, founder and CEO of Waterford Distillery, called for more attention to be given to outlining greater regulations for the Irish whiskey industry.

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