Irish Whiskey Renaissance

23 operational distilleries in Ireland currently with at least 15 in development.

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Historical Data

88 licensed distilleries in Ireland at the end of the 19th century, making Irish Whiskey the global brand leader of 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 TourismEmerging Markets and the impact of Climate Change.

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  • 814,000 people visited the 12 distillery visitor centres on the island of Ireland in 2017.
  • 923,000 people visited Ireland’s whiskey distilleries in 2018 – a 13.4% increase on 2017.
  • At present over 650,000 visitors pass through Irish Whiskey visitor centres. The current Irish Whiskey Tourism Strategy aims to grow the annual visitor numbers by more than x3 by 2025.
  • The industry is on track to reach its target of 1.9 million visitors by 2025 and is poised to hit 1m.
  • Overseas visitors accounted for 88% of the 2018 total, with the largest number coming from the US and Canada (40%), followed by the UK (14%), Germany (8%) and France (7%). Visitors from the island of Ireland accounted for 12% of the total.
  • In 2018, Jameson Distillery Dublin visitor numbers topped more than 350,000 from over seventy countries, making it the most-visited whiskey experience in the world.
  • Irish whiskey continues to be the fastest growing spirit in the world and output is expected to grow to 25 million cases by 2030.

Present & Future Development

EU Recognition

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.

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Younger consumers in Eastern Europe & The Baltic States are shifting away from Vodka to Whiskey and other premium brown spirits.
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Between 1990 and 2016, sales to the US increased 1,338% — (number of cases sold)


  • 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 by significantly. Bourbon whiskey follows by a good distance, while Irish whiskey enjoys a 0.5% market share.
  • Irish whiskey grew 20.5% between 2012 and 2016, more than all of the other whiskey categories.


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


  • 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 for the first time. This will mean that only whiskey produced on the island of Ireland, in accordance with the approved Technical File, can be labelled 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 every year.
  • This trade agreement has removed huge 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 overtime therefore increasing the price.

Growth Statistics

  • Irish whiskey exports are 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 rate of growth 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.
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Galway, Tuam Road, H91 XFF8, Ireland
+353 85 853 2616

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