Visitors to Irish whiskey distilleries still down a third on pre-Covid levels

Industry group says 2022 represented a year of recovery following two years of closures and restrictions due to Covid-19

Irish whiskey distilleries attracted 677,000 visitors last year, an increase of 425 per cent on 2021 but still a third down on the pre-Covid peak of just over one million.

The Irish Whiskey Association, the sector’s lobbying division in employers group Ibec, announced the new figures as it published the findings of its annual survey of Irish whiskey distilleries.

The top four markets for visitors to Irish whiskey distilleries in 2022 were the United States/Canada (34 per cent); Ireland (15 per cent); Germany (9.5 per cent); and Britain (9 per cent). Irish Whiskey Association chairman James Doherty said 2022 “represented a year of recovery following two years of closures and restrictions due to Covid-19”.

“While 2021 saw encouraging support from domestic visitors and staycationers, 2022 saw a strong rebound in the number of visitors from international markets, particularly North America, Germany and Britain,” he said.


The survey indicated that more than 200,000 bottles of Irish whiskey were purchased from distillery gift shops in 2022, which the industry group said highlighted the importance of the channel for the sale of Irish whiskey to visitors and tourists.

“While overall numbers are still down on the pre-Covid peak, we are targeting full recovery in 2023,” Mr Doherty said. “Irish whiskey tourism makes a substantial economic contribution to local communities around Ireland, particularly in rural areas. Based on previous assessments conducted in conjunction with Fáilte Ireland, we assess that tourists spent over €40 million in local communities linked to visits to distilleries.

“It is expected that at least 26 Irish whiskey distilleries will be open to visitors in 2023, directly employing over 400 people.”

Global sales of Irish whiskey for 2022 are expected to have grown by more than 10 per cent in volume despite the loss of almost all sales to Russia, which accounted for over 5 per cent of the market before the war in Ukraine, according to industry figures.

The Irish Whiskey Association said global sales in 2021 reached a record 14 million cases (168 million bottles), a rise of 21 per cent by volume on the previous year. It said the surge was down to the growing popularity of whiskey as a premium product, especially with millennials, more ecommerce and better trade terms in countries such as Canada.

Irish whiskey sales have almost trebled since 2010 when there were just four producers on the island.

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson is an Irish Times reporter