Irish Whiskey Distilleries Saw Over 1 Million Visitors Last Year

By Nino Kilgore-Marchetti / February 28, 2020

There is no doubt about it – global growth in whisk(e)y tourism is not just relegated to the likes of Scotland and Kentucky, the latter of which we reported earlier this week saw over 2 million whiskey lovers in 2019. Ireland has also recently joined the the game as more distilleries and brand homes open there for drinkers to explore. Recent numbers from the Irish Whiskey Association reflect this, recording for the first time ever over 1 million visitors.

2019 figures for visitors to all things Irish whiskey, according to the Irish whiskey trade group, indicate a total of 1.02 million visitors. This is a 10.5% increase from last year, which saw 923,000 visits. North America remained the top market of origin for visitors to Irish whiskey distilleries, with tourists from the US and Canada accounting for 34% of all visits in 2019, followed by Ireland (13%), Great Britain (12%), Germany (10%) and France (7%).

Interestingly, these growth numbers, while reflecting overall upward mobility, do have a slight gray lining – there were actual falls in the numbers visiting from North America and Great Britain. While North Americans are still the highest proportion of visitors to Irish whiskey distilleries and brand homes, their numbers fell by 8% last year, while British tourists were down by 2%.

Irish Whiskey

A range of Irish whiskeys (image via Glendalough Distillery)

The Association noted as well that there are 17 visitor centers and brand homes in operation across the island of Ireland, with more planned to open this year, including The Hinch Distillery close to Belfast and a new visitor experience at The Shed Distillery in Drumshanbo, Co. Leitrim. While existing visitor centers recorded slight growth in 2019, the bulk of the increases was accounted for by the opening of four new visitor centers during the year: the Clonakilty, Powerscourt, Dublin Liberties, and Roe & Co distilleries.

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“Exceeding one million visitors annually is a massive achievement and I congratulate the managers and staff of our 17 visitor attractions on achieving this milestone,” said William Lavelle, Head of the Irish Whiskey Association, in a prepared statement. “Irish whiskey distilleries and brand homes are now firmly established as a star performer within Ireland’s all-island tourism offering. Jameson Distillery, Bow Street remains the No. 1 Irish whiskey visitor attraction; and indeed the No. 1 whiskey visitor attraction in Europe; in addition to being voted the world’s leading distillery tour for the second year running at the World Travel Awards in 2019.

“Irish whiskey is [also] set to be a world leader in experiential tourism. Many distilleries and brand homes have innovated and expanded their offerings. We’ve seen a marked increase in blending and cocktail classes, for example, along with more ‘meet the maker’, food-pairing and seasonal special events.

“By throwing open the doors of our distilleries, by showcasing our people, our places and our practices, we are putting our authenticity and the uniqueness of Irish whiskey on display.”


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