Growing thirst for Northern Ireland Whiskey overseas

13 Jun 2019 03:27 PM

Northern Ireland’s distilleries are contributing to the global Irish Whiskey renaissance.

Distilleries in Northern Ireland are sparking a renaissance of Irish Whiskey – now the fastest growing premium spirit category in the world, with exports set to double to 12 million 9-litre cases by 2020 according to the Irish Whiskey Association.

Northern Ireland Whiskey distillers are contributing to this growth, as exports of the premium spirit from ports including Belfast, Londonderry, Warrenpoint and Coleraine to non-EU countries were worth £25.6 million in 2018 alone.

South Africa is the fastest growing non-EU market for Irish Whiskey, with exports valued at £17.6 million in 2018 – an increase of 27.8% from the previous year. Other markets driving this global demand include Australia, Kenya, Mexico, Norway, Taiwan and the United States.

One company boosting the Northern Ireland Whiskey industry is The Old Bushmills Distillery, also said to be the world’s oldest licensed distillery. Located on the north east coast of County Antrim, the business has been refining Whiskey distillation for centuries and recently announced a £50m expansion to double production over the next 5 years.

International Trade Secretary Dr Liam Fox MP yesterday said:

I met with Old Bushmills Distillery at the Balmoral Show last month and was impressed by the company’s exporting ambitions. I am pleased to see more distilleries contributing to economic prosperity for Northern Ireland and helping the UK maintain its global reputation for high-quality food and drink.

The UK now has an international economic department – the Department for International Trade – helping British business succeed overseas in ways that never happened before, so I urge more businesses in Northern Ireland to take advantage of the global demand for their products and services.

Less than ten years ago, Northern Ireland was home to just one distillery but now boasts a range of distillers producing award-winning Whiskey, including The Echlinville Distillery, based near Kircubbin, the home of the historic Dunville malt and blended Irish Whiskey. In 2019, its Dunville’s Three Crowns Peated Whiskey won Best Irish Blend at the World Whiskey Awards.

Another company contributing to the growth of Irish Whiskey exports is Derry based Quiet Man, a family-owned business inspired by old traditions of bartending. The Quiet Man is one of Northern Ireland’s new generation of Whiskey distillers, selling its single malt and blended Irish Whiskey worldwide.

Michael Bell, Executive Director of Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association, yesterday said:

Northern Ireland has always had a great reputation for world class distilleries. A recent surge in global demand, along with increased investment and innovation within the sector, has seen it flourish and grow on a global scale. This presents exciting opportunities for our local producers. Bushmills’ expansion plans are a very positive development for the local economy and will enable the company to take advantage of the rocketing demand for Irish Whiskey worldwide.

Northern Ireland’s food and drink companies export around 80% of their products, so cementing good trading relationships with our key export markets in the future really is crucial for the sector. We continue to engage with government on behalf of our members to ensure that this vital industry is given the best chance to grow and prosper in future.

Distilleries in Northern Ireland are not only creating jobs and delivering economic growth through exports, but also the rise of Whiskey tourism. Old Bushmills, Echlinville, Rademon Estate and Boatyard Distilleries currently attract more than 120,000 visitors every year and are on course to hit the 200,000 mark in the near future.