Gin craze takes off as sales of Irish whiskey also soar

Raised spirits as new figures show continued drinks growth, but warning of threats

It’s official. Gin is in. Sales of the spirit once informally known as mother’s ruin jumped last year with volumes rising 47.2 per cent.

With locally produced brands such as Shortcross, Bertha's Revenge and Drumbshambo Gunpowder holding their own against the likes of Hendricks, Monkey 47 and Bombay Sapphire, gin was the fastest-growing spirit category last year, according to new figures.

Sales of premium whiskey brands like Redbreast and Midleton Rare also soared, jumping 40 per cent versus the prior year, the latest Irish Spirits Report shows.

The report, compiled on behalf of the Ibec-affiliated Irish Spirits Association, shows overall sales of whiskey continued to rise, up 10.6 per cent last year with exports on target to exceed a 2020 target of 12 million cases.


Sales of Irish cream liqueurs continued to rebound with 5.6 per cent growth last year, confirming it as one of the EU’s leading spirits exports.

According to the study, spirits remain one of the country’s leading agri-food businesses with exports jumping 13.8 per cent last year to €1.32 billion.

Popular spirit

Vodka remains the most popular spirit category in the Republic, followed by Irish whiskey, gin, rum and brandy. Last year, US whiskey overtook scotch in popularity for the first time.

Patricia Callan, director of the Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland (ABFI), said while Irish spirit sales are buoyant there are considerable risks to growth. These include the impact of Brexit and the threat of tariffs in key markets such as the US.

Another threat cited by Ms Callen are provisions contained within the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, which she described as "disproportionate and excessive".

While spirits are back in fashion, the study finds that Ireland has the third-highest excise in the European Union after Sweden and Finland.

A separate report published by DCU economist Anthony Foley on behalf of the Drinks Industry Group of Ireland earlier this week shows the Republic has the second-highest overall excise tax on alcohol in the EU.

That study shows 80 cent on every glass of wine, 55 cent on every pint of lager, and €12 on every bottle of whiskey goes straight to the exchequer.

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor is a former Irish Times business journalist