A cut above

11 May, 2018

“This development of new distilleries is key to the long-term health of the category, but too many commentators focus on building production facilities as if this is what is building the category. This is far from the truth. Growth in consumer demand is what’s building the category.

“For smaller brands to make these new distilleries viable there is more investment required in sales and marketing drives and too often it seems this is being lost,” he says.

In a series of articles in Irish publication Food for Thought, disquiet has been expressed about the dominance of Irish Distillers’ in still making most of the Irish whiskey produced and the lack of a wholesale market for whiskey in the same way that scotch whisky producers traditionally buy and sell each other’s whiskies.

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The Wild Geese brand has been quoted as one that has been built without a distillery but is now struggling to get liquid. There had been a dispute and litigation between Pernod and brand owner André Levy over the brand names Wild Geese and Wild Turkey, which is no longer owned by Pernod.

Levy is quoted as saying: “The reality facing the Irish whiskey market is that all of the major distilleries on the island of Ireland are owned by multinationals. This dominance limits access to stocks of mature Irish whiskey which is needed by developing brands to survive and grow. While new distilleries are planned, they are either too small or will not have stocks of mature whiskey for sale for a number of years, by which time many viable whiskey brands will be hampered or may even cease to exist.”

Asked to respond, Irish Distillers issued this statement: “Mr. Levy’s complaints about supply of whiskey have already been adjudicated upon twice over the last decade by the European Commission and in both instances were ruled in our favour.

“Mr Levy’s assertion that an intellectual property dispute between Protégé International’s ‘Wild Geese’ and ‘Wild Turkey’, which belongs to one of our competitors since 2009 has no relevance to supply agreement discussions. Irish Distillers is an affiliate of Pernod Ricard, which has more than 50 affiliate companies globally.

“In the normal course of business, affiliates regularly seek to protect the intellectual property rights across the portfolio of the group’s brands. At various stages, Irish Distillers has in good faith proposed to Protégé International supply options that it has refused.

“Mr Levy’s assertion that there is not a functioning wholesale whiskey market in Ireland is simply untrue. This is clearly evidenced by the number of new whiskeys that have entered the sector in recent years and the new whiskeys we know will follow in the years ahead as the category expands.

“In 2012 there were less than five distilleries operating on the island of Ireland. Ireland now has 16 operational distilleries with another 15+ in various stages of planning. Irish Distillers always welcomes the emergence of new players in the Irish whiskey category.

“A strong Irish whiskey category is a welcome and positive development for the overall industry as it will lead to more choice for consumers and help to grow the category. There are dozens of new Irish whiskey brands on shelves.

“To help new entrants, Irish Distillers was one of the founding members of the Irish Whiskey Association in 2014 which was set up to protect and promote Irish whiskey globally as well as develop targeted supports for new entrants.





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Dominic Roskrow

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