Exports of Scotch whisky hit a record high last year, according to new figures. Analysis of HMRC data by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) found exports grew 7.8% by value to £4.7bn. The number of bottles exported also reached record levels, growing by 3.6% to 1.28 billion.
Blended Scotch achieved global exports of just over £3bn in 2018, while exports of single malts rose by 11.3% to £1.3bn. Bulk whisky for bottling abroad and bottled single and blended grain whisky exports together amounted to £359m.
The United States became the first billion pound overseas market for Scotch whisky by value, growing to £1.04bn last year. The European Union remained the largest region for exports, accounting for 30% of global value and 36% of volume.
SWA chief executive Karen Betts said the figures showed that Scotch whisky had continued to grow, despite the challenges posed by Brexit and by tensions in the global trading system.
She added: However, the industry does not take continued growth for granted. We operate in a competitive global marketplace and so a competitive business environment in Scotland and across the UK is vital to Scotch whisky's success.
For Scotch, that means fair and balanced regulation and taxes, including excise duty, to give distillers the confidence to invest in future growth.
We also want to see the UK and EU agree to an open and positive future relationship, which delivers frictionless trade with the EU and the UK to secure ambitious trading relationships with key markets around the world.
Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing welcomed the figures. He said: I'm sure that many people in Scotland will join me in raising a glass to another record-breaking year for Scotch whisky.
It's an industry that, despite having been established for centuries, has still gone from strength to strength in recent years, thanks in part to the determination from the Scottish government and the industry to work together, in order to create a national brand with a global reputation. Thanks to that success abroad, whisky is a major employer in Scotland.
Of course Brexit continues to threaten that progress, particularly in relation to the European market which accounts for 30% of our exports. But we are doing what we can to support the sector against growing uncertainty, and ensure it remains one of the biggest contributors to Scotland's economy.