Irish Spirits Association and Scotch Whisky Association Tackle Brexit at Annual Industry Meeting

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Irish Spirits Association and Scotch Whisky Association Tackle Brexit at Annual Industry Meeting

Irish Spirits Association and Scotch Whisky Association Tackle Brexit at Annual Industry Meeting
March 13
09:04 2018

The Irish Spirits Association (ISA) recently hosted the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) in Dublin for their annual bilateral meeting, which this year was dominated by the challenges posed by Brexit. 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, as Irish whiskey will be the EU’s largest whiskey category after Brexit, with the potential to grow 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 in 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 %


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

At the meeting, the Scotch Whisky Association delegation was led by chief executive Karen Betts, while the Irish delegation was led by Irish Spirits Association Chairperson Aoife Clarke, Head of the Association William Lavelle and Patricia Callan, Director of Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland (ABFI).

William Lavelle, Head of the Irish Spirits Association said: “While the Scotch whisky industry sells 10 times more bottles than the Irish, the Irish whiskey industry is growing at a much greater speed. The export value of Irish whiskey grew by 20 per cent in 2017, compared with an 8.9 per cent 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 per cent. Irish whiskey is the fastest growing spirit category in the world and we are targeting more growth in more markets.

Commenting on Brexit, Lavelle added: “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.”


Pictured ahead of the recent Six Nations rugby match between the Irish and Scottish teams were: Karen Betts, CEO Scotch Whisky Association; Aoife Clarke, Chair of the Irish Spirts Association; Patricia Callan, Director of Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland; and William Lavelle, Head of the Irish Spirts Association.

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