Cranes dotting the skylines, promises of tax cuts, and Mick McCarthy is the Ireland manager - the good times seem to be back. And that certainly looks to be the case for the Irish whiskey industry, which is on course to sell more than ten million cases this year for the first time since before prohibition in the US.

Blackwater Distillery in Waterford today becomes the 21st operational Irish whiskey distillery, and this figure of 21 is up from just four at the start of the decade.

The Head of the Irish Whiskey Association (IWA), William Lavelle, said the Irish Whiskey industry "has come a long way".


He said the growth has been driven by consumers "who around the world are flocking to our products.

"It's been driven by massive investment in the industry, led by the likes of Irish Distillers and William Grant, which is managing to crack open new markets."

Most Irish Whiskey sales are outside Ireland, while many of these new distilleries are packaging themselves as destinations with a heritage story, offering tours and the like to attract a tourist market.

"95.5% of our product is sold on the export market so we are a category that is booming globally," according to Mr Lavelle.

"Indeed Irish Whiskey has consolidated its position as the fastest growing premium spirit category in the world and I think this is something we should be very proud of in Ireland," he added.

According to the IWA, the United States continued to deliver strong growth in 2018 for Irish Whiskey sales, while major markets including Germany, Australia and Canada are performing very well for the category.

On the tourism attracted as a result of the growth in Irish Whiskey, he said "last year we had 814,000 visitors to visitor centres and brand homes in Irish Whiskey distilleries - that number will be even higher this year".

In the case of Blackwater, like most of the new whiskey distilleries, they are still producing gin as well, and generally begin by distilling gin before their whiskey stocks are ready for market. 

The head of the Irish Whiskey Association said it's an expensive business to get into and building a distillery "isn't cheap and after you do that it's a minimum of three years maturation before you can sell your product.

"SMEs getting into the industry, they're looking to diversify their business model, they're looking at other revenue streams.

"We know gin is booming at the moment worldwide so gin is a very convenient product to produce."

But he added that Irish distilleries are making "world-class" gin and Irish gin is building a very strong reputation.

Blackwater Distillery claims to be the first distillery in the world to embrace blockchain technology.

Every bottle of whiskey produced at the distillery will feature a unique symbol which the customer can scan, giving them access to information about the product.

Mr Lavelle says this move is "indicative of a growing trend in our industry, which is a very high commitment to authenticity and a high commitment to transparency. 

"As an industry we have spent 13 months working with the Food Safety Authority on new guidelines on the labelling and marketing of Irish Whiskey, because we want consumers to have assurances and confidence that the product they are buying is authentic.

"Some companies are doing it through technology like blockchain and as an industry we're working with government to ensure consumers have that confidence."

The new distillery in Ballyduff, near Lismore in Co Waterford, will open to the general public for tours early next year.