Danny Lawson/PA Wire
a fine drop

How Irish whiskey has been brought back from 'near extinction'

Thousands of rural jobs could be created if the local sector recreates the success of the Scotch industry.

Updated 16:03

THE IRISH WHISKEY industry has been brought back from “near extinction” to become the fastest-growing spirit category in the world.

And distillers hope to build on that to replicate the success of the huge Scottish whisky sector in a push that could nearly quadruple exports within 15 years.

The Irish Whiskey Association will today launches its “vision for Irish whiskey” to plot that growth, although chairman Bernard Walsh told the local industry still had “a lot of ground to catch up on the likes of the Scots”.

We’ve come from a place where, maybe in the 80s, Irish whiskey represented only 1% of global market share of exported whiskeys – near extinction – to the last 20 years growing consecutively year after year,” he said.

There are currently 26 new distilleries either built or in the planning stages across the country and Walsh, who founded the Walsh Whiskey Distillery, said the industry had great potential to bring jobs and investment to rural areas.

We’re not losing the run of ourselves, we know if we look across at our near-neighbours in Scotland they’re doing 90 million cases so it’s fantastic for us to aspire to that long-term,” he said.

Irish whiskey exports are currently worth over €300 million a year, up 220% since 2003, however that figure is dwarfed by the estimated €5 billion shipped out of the UK in Scotch whisky annually.

In this extended interview, Walsh explains how the industry has made a comeback and where it is headed:

Video / YouTube

Irish whiskey output grew at the fastest rate of any spirit between 2008 and 2013, although total production was still less than 8% of that for scotch.

This is how production of the different spirit types compares in 2013:


Click here for a larger version

As part of the growth plans, the industry has set itself these targets:

  • Tripling its share of the global, premium whiskey market to 12% within 15 years
  • A near-quadrupling of exports from 6.5 million to 24 million cases per year by 2030
  • Boosting whiskey tourism from 600,000 to 800,000 visitors in the medium term
  • A 30% increase in employment and 41% increase in production by 2025


Click here for a larger version

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney, who will launch the strategy this evening, said the industry’s recent growth showed it was a sector with “ambition” and a “sense of mission”.

Irish whiskey and those who champion it will be well placed to generate growth, exports and jobs and a very special tourist offering celebrating an all-island heritage,” he said.

Tequila firm buys whiskey brand Brian Lawless / PA Wire Brian Lawless / PA Wire / PA Wire

First published 11.00am

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