As the Irish and Scottish rugby teams prepared to kick-off the Six Nations championship in Edinburgh last weekend representatives from the Irish Whiskey Association and the Scotch Whisky Association held their annual meeting to discuss products, new opportunities and the challenges posed by Brexit.
Irish whiskey exports now represent more than a third of all drinks exports and were valued at €505 million in 2016.
The industry has experienced huge growth over the last 10 years and this week alone plans for two new distilleries in Derry and Dublin moved another step closer, bringing the total number of distilleries to 16 in production and a further 14 in planning with many other projects at other stages of development.
However with 118 distilleries in operation in Scotland and exports of Scotch whisky valued at £4 billion (€4.6bn) a year, the sector is considerably bigger than the Irish whiskey sector.
“Whilst Irish whiskey is the fastest-growing premium spirit in the world, the Scotch whisky industry is more established and is the largest net contributor to the UK’s balance of trade in goods, creating £5 billion annually for the economy,” pointed out the Head of the Irish Whiskey Association Head Miriam Mooney, “As the Irish whiskey sector continues to prosper we only have to look at Scotland to see what’s possible for the industry in terms of growth and potential. The sector is a significant contributor to rural employment, supporting often fragile local economies including 7,000 jobs in rural Scotland alone.
“Global recognition for high quality Irish whiskey has never been higher. We look forward to working together with our counterparts in Scotland to promote further growth and to discuss the challenges facing both sectors including the uncertainty around Brexit ”.