Spirit sales rebounding after 5% decline last year

New figures show spirit sales fell to 2.3m nine-litre cases from 2.42m a year earlier

The Pornstar Martini is proving to be a big hit with people on nights out. Photograph: iStock

The Pornstar Martini is proving to be a big hit with people on nights out. Photograph: iStock


Sales of spirits such as vodka, whiskey and gin declined by nearly 5 per cent last year but are rebounding strongly following the reopening of the hospitality sector.

New figures compiled by industry research company IWSR show spirit sales fell to 2.3 million nine-litre cases last year, down 4.8 per cent compared with the 2.42 million nine-litre cases in 2019.

Much of the decline relates to a fall in on-trade sales as bars, restaurants and hotels remained closed for much of the year due to the Covid-19 crisis.

Nearly all the leading categories showed a decline in growth with sales of vodka, the most popular spirit in the Republic, down 10.2 per cent to 710.5 cases, compared with 791,000 a year earlier.

Irish whiskey bucked the trend with sales increasing 0.1 per cent to 591,000 cases from 590,500, while gin was down 22.5 per cent to 316,000 from 338.500 cases.

Smirnoff continued to easily outsell the competition, despite a 13.4 per cent decline in sales last year. It racked up sales of 420,000, compared with 485,000 in 2019.

Jameson, the second most popular Irish spirit, recorded sales of 254,000, up 1.6 per cent compared with the 250,000 cases sold in the prior year.

Buoyant sales

Rounding out the top five most popular spirits are Gordon’s, which sold 132,000 cases, up 1.7 per cent, Baileys, up 29.1 per cent to 110,000 cases, and Hennessy, down 12.3 per cent to 90,000 cases.

Irish Distillers managing director Claire Tolan said spirit sales were rebounding strongly as the hospitality sector opens up.

“Vodka sales are extremely buoyant on the back of increased demand for cocktails. We’re hearing that there is huge demand for flavoured vodkas and for cocktails such as Pornstar Martinis,” she said.

“Part of it is that people are sitting down and ordering rather than going to the bar so they are thinking longer about what they might want to drink. There are also lots of people who feel they deserve something a little bit more special after not being out regularly for a long time,” Ms Tolan added.

She said that while sales of traditional gin are in decline, flavoured versions are also still heavily in demand.

“Whiskey sales have remained strong as well, with consumers having a huge interest in them and wanting to know the story behind them,” she added.

Ms Tolan said sales of Irish Distillers’ products during July and August – the first two months of its new financial year – were up on 2020 and that she expected this to continue for the whole 12 months.