Irish whiskey exports are set to double to 12 million cases by 2020, according to the Irish Whiskey Association.

Distilleries in Northern Ireland are contributing to the growth of the market, which is one of the fastest growing in the spirit category.

According to Department of International Trade (DIT), exports from ports such as Belfast, Londonderry, Warrenpoint and Coleraine to non-EU countries were worth £25.6m in 2018.

DIT secretary Dr Liam Fox 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.”

With exports valued at £17.6m in 2018, South Africa is reported to be one of the fastest growing non-EU markets for Irish whiskey. This is an increase of 27.8% from the previous year.

Demand for Irish whiskey is said to have increased in other markets, including Australia, Kenya, Mexico, Norway, Taiwan and the US.

DIT further explained that the distilleries in Northern Ireland are responsible for an increase in whiskey tourism, which supports the country’s economic growth.

Some of the distilleries that played a key role in driving whiskey tourism include Old Bushmills, Echlinville, Rademon Estate and Boatyard Distilleries, which attract more than 120,000 visitors every year.

Old Bushmills Distillery has recently announced a £50m expansion to double production over the next five years.