But ahead of this, IWA representatives are gathering at Bushmills Distillery, County Antrim, this Friday to discuss international trade as well as the impact of Brexit on the sector. This will be the first industry meeting to take place north of the border.
“Both of these issues – Brexit and trade – go hand-in-hand,” stated the Head of the IWA William Lavelle, “Brexit raises concerns for the Irish whiskey industry in terms of the uncertainty over potential disruption to cross-border supply chains and the threat of regulatory divergence in the treatment of our all-island geographical indication”.
The Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland has been addressing these issues as part of its extensive engagement with Government and the EU Commission on Brexit.
But Brexit also offers significant opportunities, he continued, “Irish whiskey will be the EU’s largest whiskey category once Scotland leaves the EU and given our current growth trajectory we could, in a few years, overtake Cognac to become the EU’s largest spirit export.
“To date all of our industry has benefitted, north and south. We want to ensure that all Irish whiskey distilleries, north and south, will continue to have the best possible access to global markets.”
He added, “At present, half of all Irish whiskey is sold in just one market, the United States. Our goal is to target more growth in more markets. We want to expand from our current 135 markets to at least the 170 markets where Scotch whisky is sold. More critically, in the markets where we currently have a low sales base, we want to grow sales by double digits each year.
“Recently we increased sales across Europe and in emerging markets such as Canada, Mexico and Africa. Going forward, Asia and the Far East is going to be a key focus for Irish whiskey export growth.
Colum Egan, Chairman of the Irish Whiskey Association, added, “We have grown from just two distilleries in the early 1980s to 18 in 2017 and likely 23 by the end of this year. Irish whiskey is the world’s fastest-growing spirit category and we’re now targeting for further growth in markets worldwide.”
The delegation at Bushmills will also be addressed by Ulrich Adams, recently-appointed Director-General of spiritsEurope, the representative body for the EU spirits industry.
The CSO reports that the value of Irish whiskey grew by 14.3% last year.