Whiskey industry faces “unique Brexit risks”

Ireland’s Six Nations match between Ireland and Scotland last week was preceded by the annual bilateral meeting of the Irish Spirits Association and the Scotch Whisky Association in Dublin.

The SWA delegation was led by Chief Executive Karen Betts while the Irish delegation was led by ISA Chairperson Aoife Clarke. The ISA Head William Lavelle and ABFI Director Patricia Callan also attended the meeting.

This year the challenges posed by Brexit dominated discussions.

Ireland’s whiskey industry faces unique risks associated with regulatory divergence and trade border controls after Brexit.

However Brexit also poses opportunities for the industry with the potential to grow in more markets.

“The Irish spirits and whiskey industry has concerns in relation to preserving cross-border supply chains, safeguarding the EU-backed regulations (Geographic Indicators) that protect Irish whiskey and Irish cream liqueur and ensuring continued smooth movement of excisable spirits in duty suspension between Ireland and the UK,” said the ISA’s William Lavelle, “However, Brexit also offers opportunities. The increasing number of EU free trade agreements has benefitted the export-focused Irish whiskey and spirits industry and post-Brexit, Irish whiskey will be the EU’s largest whiskey category. This presents new opportunities for us as we look to more growth in more markets.”

To coincide with the meeting, the ISA compiled an industry league table, highlighting the difference between the two industries in terms of relative size. While Scotch whisky still dominates the global market, Irish whiskey is growing much faster than its rivals.


Irish whiskey vs Scotch whisky industry league table

Ireland Scotland
Number of distilleries 18 in production and 18 in planning 118
Number of markets sold in world 135 200
Estimated number of bottles sold in 2017 120 million 1.2 billion
Annual growth in bottles sold

(latest full year figures)

11.7 % 1.6%
Export values 2017 €600m (RoI only) €4.3 billion
Annual growth in export values 20% (RoI only) 8.9%
Visitor Centre numbers 814,000 1.7 million

The export value of Irish whiskey grew by 14.2% in 2017 compared with an 8.9% growth for Scotch.

“In terms of the overall number of bottles sold, we can see from the comparison that sales of Irish whiskey grew at a double-digit rate last year while Scotch grew by 1.6%,” commented William Lavelle.


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