Aoife Clarke of Beam Suntory has been appointed chair of the Irish Spirits Association (ISA), the representative body responsible for promoting the interests of the Irish spirits industry.

Clarke will be the first female Chair of the Irish Spirits Association in its 20-year history. She takes over as chair from John Harte of Donohoes Drink Company.

Clarke has extensive experience working in the drinks industry and in public affairs, both in Ireland and internationally. She has been the senior director of international public affairs at Beam Suntory for over four years. Beam Suntory is the owner of Cooley Distillery, one of the largest Irish whiskey distilleries.

Pat Rigney of the The Shed Distillery in Co Leitrim, makers of Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin, has been appointed as Vice-Chair of the ISA.

Established in 1997, the Irish Spirits Association acts as a voice among national and EU policy makers for issues such as taxation, labelling, trade and the ongoing international protection of Ireland’s Geographic Indicators (GIs). The Irish Spirits Association is part of Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland (ABFI) in Ibec.

Speaking about her appointment, Aoife Clarke said “The Irish spirits industry is at an important point in time. The sector is undergoing vibrant growth and exports have increased substantially in recent years. Global sales of Ireland’s GI spirits – Irish Whiskey, Irish Cream and Poitín – totalled nearly 16 million cases or 200 million bottles in 2016.”

“There are huge opportunities ahead, especially for Ireland’s GI spirits. Irish whiskey is going from strength to strength and is now the fastest growing spirits category in the world. Irish Cream Liqueur is emerging from a lost decade, with sales on the rise again.”