‘Misleading’ labels on Irish whiskey could damage category, IWA warns

While sales of Irish whiskey are on the rise worldwide, the industry’s trade body has warned that misleading labels could hinder the category’s growth.

The IWA has filed complaints with the food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI), over what it has called “misleading labelling and marketing” on Irish whiskey products, adding that it could threaten its reputation overseas.

“There is no place in our industry for misleading labelling and marketing, particularly where it refers to a non-existent distillery,” a statement from the IWA said.

Earlier this year, the IWA and FSAI produced a new set of guidelines for Irish whiskey labelling and marketing. The regulations state that distilleries involved in the production of Irish whiskey must be verified by Revenue.

Any statements on labels that “would appear to give the impression of distilling where distilling is not yet taking place, is not permitted,” according to the IWA

The industry body said it is aware of Irish whiskey brands that prominently refer to a named ‘distillery’, despite the distillery being non-operational.

“We are aware of Irish whiskey brands on the market, both in Ireland and internationally, which prominently refer to a named ‘distillery’, where same is neither licensed or operational as an Irish whiskey distillery,” it said.

The IWA, which represents 40 companies in Ireland, confirmed it had submitted a complaint against St Patrick’s Distillery in County Cork.

St Patrick’s Distillery buys in new-make whiskey – the colourless liquid that is taken from the spirit still after distillation – before maturing the spirit for three years in oak casks in a bonded warehouse, a spokesperson for the producer told db.

They told the drinks business the company has “always been honest” about its production process.

“We hold an international trademark for St Patrick’s distillery and when we sell the whiskey we do so under our legal corporate trademark,” they said.

However, the IWA said it requires its members to “amend such materials to avoid misleading the consumer.”

“In many cases companies have voluntarily changed labels in recent years to ensure transparency for consumers.”

Irish whiskey exports are booming, particularly in the US, which makes up just over 42% of all overseas sales of Irish whiskey, according to a report released by the IWA earlier this year.

Figures published by the Department for International Trade (DIT) in July show that, worldwide, sales of Irish whiskey have risen by more than 300% since 2009.

Irish Whiskey gained a protected Geographical Indication (GI) in EU member countries in April this year, after the IWA first applied for the GI in 2014.

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