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Coveney Strengthens Legal Protection for Irish Whiskey, Irish Poitín and Irish Cream

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney T.D. has introduced new regulations to protect the integrity a number of key Irish spirit drinks products.

Referring to these important regulations today, Minister Coveney said, “These regulations provide critically important protection for Irish companies in the developing Irish Spirit Drinks sector, which has ambitious plans to establish a number of new distilleries to meet the growing demand worldwide.”

Irish Whiskey, Irish Poitin and Irish Cream are protected “Geographical Indications” under European Law. This means that they must be produced on the Island of Ireland in accordance with strict technical specifications notified to European Commission.

He added “In the last decade, Irish Whiskey exports grew by almost 200% and the sector employs over 750 people. In 2014, close to 7 million cases of Irish Whiskey were exported to over 100 countries. Exports are set to exceed 12 million cases by 2020 and 24 million cases by 2030. Three years ago, the island of Ireland had four distilleries in operation – in the next three years that number could grow to over 20. I am confident that this success can be replicated in other spirit drinks products.”

The new regulations introduce strong enforcement powers to ensure that spirit drinks labelled with these protected designations are manufactured in Ireland in accordance with the approved technical specification. The designations cannot be used on products manufactured elsewhere in the EU. The regulations also apply to a range of other protected spirit drinks manufactured within the EU.

The Minister concluded, ”These regulations mean that inferior products or those that do not share the uniquely Irish heritage of these protected Geographical Indications cannot be sold as Irish Whiskey, Irish Poitin or Irish Cream. They can help to protect the reputation and integrity of these products, but also to protect Irish jobs. From a consumer perspective, they will also give assurance to customers, at home and abroad, of the quality of the unique spirit products they are consuming.”

Notes for Editors

The Regulations are entitled: “EUROPEAN COMMUNITIES (SPIRIT DRINKS) REGULATIONS 2015 S.I. 316 of 2015”

They implement EU Regulation 110/2008, as amended, and EU Implementing Regulation 716/2013.

Under EU Regulations 110/2008 all European spirit drinks that were submitted by Member States were given a protected status meaning that they were linked to specific countries and/or regions of those countries. Following on from this designation no other drink product could use the name or refer in any way to the qualities of a protected spirit drink.

In order to ensure that these products continue to produced to the traditional specification all Member States were required to submit detailed technical files for each spirit drink by 20th February 2015 and agree to carry out verification check on an annual basis. Ireland has three protected spirits, Irish Whiskey, Irish Poitín and Irish Cream. The Irish technical files were submitted to the EU Commission on 30th October 2014 for Irish Whiskey and 20th February 2015 for Irish Poitín and Irish Cream.

The Statutory Instrument’s implementation date is 30th October 2015. This is to allow time for those companies currently producing protected spirits in Ireland to apply for verification. In the meantime the existing Spirit’s S.I. (No. 429 of 2009) is still in place implementing the current protections under EU Regulation 110/2008.

The S.I. also provides for the introduction of fees as laid down in Article 22 (1) of Regulation 110/ 2008 for GI control purposes. For overall protection of GI names we need to ensure effective control in the market place to ensure correct labelling and to be able to instruct shops to remove product from shelves, remove and change signage and in addition we need to be able to require re-labelling.

It is intended to have an annual inspection of all applicants for the first three years of the verification system viz: 2015, 2016 and 2017. A review of the verification system will take place after 2018.

As Irish Whiskey, Irish Poitín and Irish Cream are produced on an all island basis Her Majesty Revenue Commissioners (HMRC) have been consulted on the details and timing of the verification system.

The verification for Irish Whiskey and Irish Poitín will be carried out by officials of the Revenue Commissioners. The verification for Irish Cream will be carried out by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.  A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) has been signed by the Secretary General of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM), the Chair of the Revenue Commissioners and the Chief Executive of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) to allow for cooperation between the three State agencies to operate the verification system.

Application forms and other information for the verification schemes for Irish Whiskey, Irish Poitín and Irish Cream will be available to interested companies and individuals in the coming weeks.

View this Press Release as PDF: DAFMPR 140/2015 (pdf 423Kb) 

Date Released: 27 July 2015