For the first time in history, single malt Scotch whisky exceeded £1bn ($1.2bn) worth of UK exports in 2016, with shipments rising 9.6 percent on the year before.

The landmark figure reflects a return to growth for exports of Scotch more widely, with nearly £4bn of overseas sales in total.

Such impressive growth follows a dive in 2014 and 2015, when demand waned in countries like Brazil and China.

Economic difficulty and government policy were both to blame for the downturn in some foreign markets.

China’s anti-extravagance laws played a role in reducing scotch whisky consumption, and a recession in certain South American regions knocked alcohol imports.

Scotch whisky sales to Brazil dropped by 20 percent in 2015.

Of the £3.8bn of UK Scotch whisky exported in 2015, more than two-thirds went to countries outside the European Union.

Recently, Scotland has seen significant demand for whisky from Japan.

In 2015, Scotch whisky accounted for more than three-quarters of Scottish exports to the East Asian region — £98.7m worth of exports, according to data released last week.

“Scotland has a fantastic larder of some of the world’s best natural produce, a flair for innovation and a long-standing reputation for producing top-quality food and drink, so it is no surprise our food and drink industry is enjoying significant success in the Japanese market,” said Fiona Hyslop, Scotland’s external affairs secretary.

However, there are concerns that Brexit could have a negative impact on the whisky industry.

“We expect demand to continue to increase and this confidence is reflected in unprecedented investment in the industry, with more than a dozen new Scotch Whisky distilleries opening in the last few years and up to 40 further projects at various stages of planning and development,” Rosemary Gallagher, head of communications at the Scotch Whisky Association told Verdict.

“But we need support from government as we deal with the challenges and opportunities of Brexit. Ahead of the UK Budget in March, an open and ambitious trade policy combined with a competitive and fair domestic tax environment are key priorities for the sector.”

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