Irish Whiskey Industry Triples-Down on Global Fight Against Counterfeit Bottles
Irish whiskey isn’t Scotch, and Scotch isn’t Kentucky bourbon, and Kentucky Bourbon isn't Tennesee Whiskey, as any discerning drinker surely knows. But how do you know the Irish whiskey you’re getting is actually Irish at all? Can you really trust the label, or is the producer using tricky language to make you think you’re getting something authentic? It’s precisely that kind of misdirection and fraud that the Irish Whiskey Association, the representative body of Ireland’s whiskey industry, is hoping to cease by tripling its legal budget for 2019.
“As global sales of Irish whiskey continue to sky-rocket, it’s not surprising that fraudsters want to get in on our success,” IWA head William Lavelle said at the 2018 Irish Pubs Global Conference, according to FoodBev.com. “But it doesn’t mean we’ll let them.” The IWA cites a couple specific examples, even calling out countries, as problematic infiltrators of the Irish whiskey market. “Whether it’s a Russian spirit with brown colouring or a US-made whiskey being labeled as ‘Irish-style’, it’s not authentic Irish whiskey.”
One major factor is the actual geography of where the whiskey is produced. Irish whiskey benefits from a Geographical Indication in many export countries, meaning whiskeys that aren’t actually produced in Ireland can’t label themselves as such. In markets where Geographical Indication standards are not in place—including Australia, South Africa, Russia, India, and Thailand—the IWA is seeking to create certifications or trademarks.
The IWA’s initial efforts to combat fraud first took effect in 2014 and has seen already seen progress. “To date, we have successfully resolved a number of reported infringement matters through working directly with the brand owners agreeing to take the necessary corrective action,” Lavelle said, according to Checkout. “We are also actively pursuing a number of infringing brands in Russia, as well as a number of mislabelling issues with products on sale in the EU.”
Additionally, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland recently agreed to set new guidelines for the labeling and language allowed in the sale of Irish whiskey. “These new guidelines will mean that consumers can be assured that the information appearing on an Irish whiskey label is accurate and not misleading; and it will provide a clear and agreed benchmark against which complaints of misleading labeling can be assessed and enforced against,” Lavelle explained. To further address the issue on the ground, the IWA is asking pubs and other sellers to check the Geographic Indication compliance and to report any fishy labeling.