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European Commission approves Irish whiskey’s GI status

The European Commission has confirmed geographical indication (GI) status for Irish whiskey as well as Irish cream liqueur and Irish poitín.

The Irish whiskey technical file was originally submitted by the Depart of Agriculture, Food and The Marine in October 2014. The file documents the principle physical characteristics of the spirit.

Among them are that the spirit must range in colour from pale gold to dark amber and must be distilled from a mash of malted cereals, with or without whole grains for other cereals.

“The general classification ‘Irish Whiskey/Uisce Beatha Eireannach /Irish Whisky’ also contains three varieties, ‘Pot Still Irish Whiskey’, ‘Malt Irish Whiskey’ and ‘Grain Irish Whiskey,’” the document notes.

“The above varieties can also be combined to form a ‘Blended Irish Whiskey/Irish Blended Whiskey’. Irish whiskey is a spirit distilled on the island of Ireland, including Northern Ireland. It must be distilled to an alcoholic strength of less than 94.8% and is subject to the maturation of the final distillate for at least three years in wooden casks, such as oak, not exceeding 700 litres capacity.”

Irish whiskey must not be matured outside of Ireland and cannot be exported in barrel.

The file was submitted to conform with a 2008 EU Spirit Regulation, which required member states to submit a technical file to the European Commission for each GI registered by 20 February 2015, outlining production methods, ingredients and links with the geographical area in question.

Carleen Madigan, legal advisor to the Irish Whiskey Association (IWA), said: “This is a momentous achievement for the Irish whiskey industry and ensures that the traditions and high standards of the Irish whiskey category will be protected in the EU and globally in markets with which the EU has a trade agreement.

“As sales of Irish whiskey continue to boom globally, we have seen a trebling in the complaints to the association regarding fake Irish whiskey around the world.

“The geographic indication provides the strongest possible protection against these infringements and gives us the basis for enforcement action against misleading products.”

Vincent McGovern, head of the IWA, added: “This week’s announcement was likewise of great significance to both Irish cream and Irish poitín as their technical files were also approved.

“Both categories will benefit from the strong protection and higher profile a European geographic indication provides at home, across the internal market and in export markets worldwide.”

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