Irish whiskey sector back on track with further success in sight

Despite pandemic, continued investment means sector poised for quick sales rebound

Drinks industry analyst IWSR projects that Irish whiskey sales will grow by 33 per cent from 2020 to 2024

Drinks industry analyst IWSR projects that Irish whiskey sales will grow by 33 per cent from 2020 to 2024

 

Is there any stopping the remarkable success story that is the Irish whiskey sector? It has certainly experienced difficulties during the Covid crisis but remained resilient even during this.

Global sales slipped by just 0.4 per cent to 11.4 million in 2020. This is even with the collapse in duty free and travel retail, and the widespread closure of bars and restaurants.

News that Jameson sold a record 8.6 million cases despite the pandemic offers further evidence of a sector that continues to thrive as does the announcement by Private Pier Industries, the owner of the Grace O’Malley and Proclamation brands, that it is to invest €4 million in a whiskey maturation facility in Louth. This is part of a wider €24 million investment in the Irish whiskey sector by the company.

Elsewhere, Skellig Six18, which is developing a €10 million micro-distillery and visitor centre along the Ring of Kerry, also announced a €4 million investment in the business earlier this year.

Sales growth

More than €1.5 billion was invested in the Irish whiskey sector in the 2010s, a period in which global sales grew from 60 million bottles to 144 million. Irish whiskey is now available in more than 140 countries and was the world’s fastest-growing spirits category over the past decade. Continued investment, even during the Covid crisis, is expected to lead to a quick rebound in sales in the coming years.

Don’t just take our word for it. Drinks industry analyst IWSR projects that Irish whiskey sales will grow by 33 per cent from 2020 to 2024. It forecasts that after slipping to 11.4 million last year that it will reach 11.9 million in 2021. From there it is expected to continue to grow, recording sales of 13.1 million next year, 14.2 million in 2023 and 15.3 million in 2024.

That is a remarkable achievement given what the sector has already done.

“The resilience of Irish whiskey through the pandemic, when sales dipped only 4 per cent, has paved the way for a strong rebound and what we expect to be continued robust growth, across both established and emerging markets,” is how William Lavelle of the Irish Whiskey Association puts it.

“Irish whiskey still has many years of strong growth ahead before we see global sales plateauing,” he added.

With the world showing a seemingly unshakeable thirst for it, there would be few who would bet against him.