It’s a good time to be making Irish whiskey.
The Emerald Isle’s distilleries experienced a serious bounce-back in 2021, according to a year-end snapshot from the Irish Whiskey Association (IWA). Global sales have rebounded over the last 12 months, rising to what the group called an all-time high in the process.
As it was for most of the world, 2020 was a year to forget for the Irish whiskey industry. The collapse of travel retail (people buying spirits at duty free shops when passing through the airport) brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, in particular, led to a four percent drop in global sales. Although the IWA didn’t announce an exact figure, it said there has been a “strong double-digit percentage rebound” in sales this year, setting a new high-water mark for the country’s whiskey makers.
There are three main reasons for such a banner year, according to a press release from the group. The first is growth experienced by Irish whiskey in India. Sales rose by 106 percent through the first 10 months of the year compared to all of 2020. Next is the the lifting of tariffs in Nigeria (which is Irish whiskey’s fastest growing market) and the US, as well as the reduction of provincial levies in Canada. Finally, there has been a crackdown on infringements of the Irish Whiskey Geographical Indication, and more than 90 percent of global sales are now subject to legal protection.
“In 2021, our association secured substantial achievements on international trade, protection and regulatory matters, all of which benefit the entire Irish whiskey industry,” William Lavelle, head of the IWA, said in a statement. “With the active commitment and contribution of our many member companies, we look forward to achieving more in 2022.”
As strong as 2021 may have turned out to be, the IWA hopes it is just the beginning. While the group’s attempts to raise the profile and standing of Irish whiskey certainly seem to be working, it says it won’t stop until its position as one of the world’s leading spirits categories is secured.