Information: Irish Spirit Drinks
Alcoholic Spirits & Beverages
Under European law (EU Regulation 110/2008), GI spirits placed on the market must be verified as complying with the GI’s technical file. There are three Protected Irish Spirits – Irish Whiskey/Uisce Beatha Eireannach/Irish Whisky, Irish Cream and Irish Poteen/Irish Poitín and the technical files for these Irish Spirit GIs are registered with the European Commission. These Protected Irish Spirit GIs must be produced in accordance with their respective technical specifications and can only be produced on the island of Ireland.
Irish Whiskey/Uisce Beatha Eireannach/Irish Whisky
Irish Whiskey generated exports of €576m in 2017, up 14% from €503m in 2016. The biggest market for Irish Whiskey remains the United States, which accounted for almost 60% (€340m) of total Irish Whiskey exports in 2017. Irish Whiskey exports have grown by an average of 12% a year over the past decade and it is the fastest growing brown spirit internationally. There are a growing number of distilleries now operating across the island of Ireland, with the potential to attract a significant number of tourists to their regions. In 2013, there were four distilleries in Ireland in operation producing and selling Irish Whiskey.
Irish Cream is experiencing a resurgence in demand, both globally and domestically, with exports growing exponentially over the last few years. Irish Cream exports increased to €327m in 2017, up 11% from €293m in 2016. Again the United States is the biggest export destination for Irish Cream, with exports of €166m in 2017 and €145m in 2016.
Irish Cream Technical File (pdf 704Kb)
Irish Poitín /Poteen
The third protected Irish Spirit is Irish Poitín /Poteen. The meaning of Poitín comes from the ‘small pot’ as it was made in Small batch/Artisanal styles using locally available ingredients, like potatoes, sugar beet and grain. Pre-dating whiskey, Poitín was first distilled in the 6th Century and stood as Ireland’s national spirit until 1661 when it was declared illegal. Poitín, now legally available, is currently exported to the U.S, Canada, Italy, Scandinavia, UK.
Irish Poitín /Poteen Technical File (pdf 233Kb)
Irish gin exports have continued to show exceptional growth, from a modest €0.25m in 2015 to €1.7 million in 2017. Further export growth is expected in 2018. There are some forty (40) Irish Gin brands on the market at present.
Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s (DAFMs) role
DAFM is responsible for the co-ordination of policy on Geographical Indications at National and EU level. Ireland’s key interest is in geographical indications regime which includes Irish Whiskey, Irish Cream and Irish Poteen/Poitín.
DAFM as the competent authority had responsibility for the submission of the technical files for each spirit drink GI to the European Commission in 2015. DAFM provides advice and guidance on issues relating to the interpretation of the technical files. In 2016, DAFM in collaboration with the Revenue Commissioners and the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, established a verification regime for Ireland Spirit GIs, with a review of this system to take place after 3 years.
DAFM works closely with industry as well as state agencies such as Bord Bia, Teagasc, and Enterprise Ireland to promote and develop the spirit drinks sector in Ireland.
Geographical Indication Verification Control System
The Irish spirit drink GIs are subject to verification to ensure that they are produced in compliance with the specifications set out in the relevant GI technical file. DAFM in collaboration with the Revenue Commissioners and the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) introduced a new verification control system in 2016, under which each distillery or cream production plant is verified on an annual basis. In 2018, 13 Distilleries were verified for the production of Irish Whiskey, 6 premises for the production of Irish Cream and 4 Distilleries for the production of Poitín.