Whiskey Boom: Irish Exports Surge

Global Business

Whiskey is booming in popularity: sales of the distilled liquor are surging and it’s one of the world’s fastest growing exports. This is particularly good news for Ireland, home of the world’s oldest licensed whiskey distillery. CCTV’s Lourda Sexton reports.

Whiskey Boom: Irish Exports Surge

Whiskey Boom: Irish Exports Surge

Whiskey is booming in popularity: sales of the distilled liquor are surging and it's one of the world's fastest growing exports. This is particularly good news for Ireland, home of the world's oldest licensed whiskey distillery. CCTV's Lourda Sexton reports.

The term whiskey comes from the Gaelic terms uisce beatha meaning water of life. The Irish claim that whiskey originated here is something that is disputed by Ireland’s Scottish cousins. Yet the oldest licensed distillery is in Ireland. And Irish whiskey was once the most popular spirit in the world. However throughout the 19th century – a long period of decline damaged the industry. But over the past ten years, whiskey exports from Ireland have grown by 220%.

“Irish whiskey has been growing by double digits for the last 20 years. In the last 10 years we have seen average annual growth rates of about 12%,” says Aoife Keane, Head of Irish Whiskey Association. “If we look at the last 5 years those rates are about 17% and if we look at 2010 and 2011 we were growing by 35% each of those years so it’s been very consistent for the last 20 years and we don’t see it slowing down.”

In 2003, exports of Irish whiskey made up only 9% of the country’s beverage exports. They now account for 28%. While worldwide exports of whiskey are increasing, Ireland still only holds a 4% share of the total world export market. A recently announced 1 billion euro investment plans to change this.

“At the moment there are 5 distilleries sitting in Ireland, two of those would have started in the recent past,” says Peter Morehead, Irish Distillers Production Director. “And the others would be slightly more established including Middleton here which goes back to 1825. If you wind the clock forward and looking at plans in place, people who have got planning permission or who are already building. You are adding 14 to 20 distilleries to that list in the next 5 or 6 years.”

Exports of Irish whiskey have surged significantly in recent years. Ireland now exports to 77 markets worldwide yet 5 of these markets account for 75% of the exports. With the US and the EU dominating but the hope here is to tap into other markets like China. And with ambitious expansion plans in place the hope here is to quadruple whiskey exports from 6 million to 24 million cases by 2030. Aggressive plans that whiskey executives here are confident of.