Irish Whiskey


88 licensed distilleries in Ireland at the end of the 19th century, making Irish Whiskey the global brand leader in the spirits world. By the end of the 20th century, this number had evaporated to just 2. At one point, Irish whiskey had up to 60% of the world’s whiskey market share; today it is as low as 4%. This presents an unprecedented growth opportunity due to Tourism, Emerging Markets, and the impact of Climate Change.


EU Geographical Indication Status

Irish Whiskey has been awarded special status as a protected Geographical Indication (GI) by the EU, meaning that any product bearing that label must adhere to strict guidelines governing its blending, production, marketing, and more.

This ensures that the traditions and high standards of the Irish whiskey category will be protected in the EU and globally in markets with which the EU has a trade agreement.

As sales of Irish whiskey continue to boom globally, fake Irish whiskey has begun to appear more frequently around the world. The Geographic Indication provides the strongest possible protection against these infringements and gives the authorities in Ireland the basis for enforcement action against misleading products, ensuring the value of genuine Irish whiskey is protected.

Distillery Development

  • 23 operational distilleries in Ireland currently. At least 15 in development.
  • 3 operational distilleries in Northern Ireland. 1 in development.
  • 10 visitor centres in Ireland currently. 9 with planning permission.
  • Over 120 operational distilleries across Scotland which shows the scope for growth in Ireland.

Emerging Markets

Ireland is very reliant on the USA, there is great potential in emerging markets in Eastern Europe, Mexico, Asia and Canada following Ireland’s recent success in trade negotiations.


  • According to the IWSR, total whiskey consumption in Mexico in 2017 reached 5,098m 9L cases compared to 3,283m in 2012.
  • Blended Scotch dominates the market significantly. Bourbon whiskey follows reasonably, while Irish whiskey enjoys a 0.5% market share.
  • Irish whiskey grew 20.5% between 2012 and 2016, more than all other whiskey categories.


  • The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) that came into effect in September 2017 has removed several significant trade restrictions on spirits from the EU. Canadian recognition of the EU’s geographical indications will likely boost sales of premium Irish whiskey brands.
  • Irish whiskey exports to Canada reached €16.7m in 2016, up 171% since 2011. According to CSO figures, export values rose by a further 20.5% in the first ten months of 2017.

Growth Statistics

  • Irish whiskey exports have been up 220% since 2007.
  • Irish whiskey will struggle to meet demand over the coming years. The whiskey entrepreneur John Teeling stated that what they are making now won’t sell for seven years. So, there will be a shortage if the growth rate continues at a cumulative rate over the next six or seven years, leading to increases in price.
  • Irish Whiskey Association revealed that Irish Whiskey has the fastest growth in the world of brown spirits. The value of Irish whiskey grew by 14.3% in 2018 compared to 10% for French Cognac.


  • The EU and Japan’s Economic Partnership Agreement entered into force on 1st February 2019.
  • The Economic Partnership Agreement will introduce protection of the Irish whiskey geographic indication in Japan. This will mean that only whiskey produced on the island of Ireland, per the approved Technical File, can be labeled and marketed as “Irish whiskey” in Japan.
  • Irish Whiskey Association stated that sales of Irish whiskey in Asia and the Far East have been low; however, Japan represents the largest market for Irish whiskey in Asia and is among one of the Asian markets identified as offering significant future growth potential.
  • Sales of Irish whiskey grew by 15.6% in Japan in 2018.
  • EU firms already export over €58bn in goods and €28bn in services to Japan annually.
  • This trade agreement has removed considerable barriers to trade.

Climate Change

  • As global temperatures increase, the ingredients used to make whiskey become scarcer. This will continuously reduce the supply of whiskey over time, therefore, increasing the price.