The Road to Recovery: Scotch Whisky Exports Rise by 19% in 2021

Read the 2023 scotch whisky export figures here: Global Scotch Whisky Exports Exceed £5.6 Billion in 2023

Read the 2022 scotch whisky export figures here: Scotch whisky exports are up 37% to exceed £6bn in 2022

Following the setbacks of COVID restrictions and US tariffs on single malt Scotch, the Scotch Whisky industry has bounced back in a big way. New figures from the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) have revealed that Scotch whisky exports rose by 19% to £4.5 billion last year.

The number of 70cl bottles exported in 2021 saw an annual increase of 21%, equivalent to 1.38 billion bottles. This was even more than the amount exported pre-pandemic in 2019, which saw 73 million fewer bottles being shipped out. However, overall Scotch whisky exports still remain 8% lower than 2019 levels, when its value reached £4.91 billion.

scotch whisky exports

Mark Kent, newly appointed SWA chief executive, commented: “The global footprint of the industry in 2021 is a clear sign that the Scotch whisky industry is on the road to recovery. Value and volume are both up as consumers return to bars and restaurants, people return to travel and tourism, and we all return to a degree of normality after a period of enormous uncertainty for consumers and business.”

Key Scotch Whisky Markets

Two of the main drivers of 2021 growth were the Asia Pacific and Latin American whisky markets, up by 21% and 71% respectively. The US, which is the largest market in terms of value, saw exports rise by 8% despite a 25% import tariff on Scotch whisky being in place up to March 2021. This 8% increase is equivalent to a £790 million rise in value.

Meanwhile, exports to the EU also increased by 8% in the first year since the UK left the transition period, taking the total value of the EU Scotch whisky market to £1.36 billion.

Key Emerging Markets

SWA also reported strong growth in key emerging markets for Scotch whisky, including India (an increase of 42.9% in value), China (84.9% increase), and Brazil (80.5% increase).

The Future of the Scotch Whisky Industry

Reflecting on the recent growth, Mark Kent said: “Scotch whisky growth in global markets means more jobs and investment across Scotland and the UK supply chain. The industry has continued to invest in its production sites, tourist attractions and workforce to ensure that Scotch whisky remains at the heart of a dynamic international spirits market and attracts new consumers around the world.”

He also stressed, however, that the industry had a number of obstacles that it would have to overcome: “But this is no time for complacency. The industry continues to face global challenges, including ongoing trade disruption, growing supply chain costs and inflationary pressures, and undoubtedly there is some road to run before exports return to pre-pandemic levels.”

Kent has implored the UK and Scottish governments to aid the whisky sector’s recovery through “global opportunities”, such as the UK-India trade talks and more investment in sustainability. Notably, in 2021, the UK government pledged £11.3 million to support the sustainability projects of four different distilleries. 

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