Is the Definition of Irish Single Pot Still Whiskey Changing?
Single Pot Still Whiskey is one of the most iconic styles of whiskey to come from the Emerald Isle, known for its robust flavours, mouth coating viscosity and characteristic pot still spice. This classic style has been crafted in Ireland for at least 200 years and was the backbone of the success of Irish whiskey as a style around the world in the 1800’s. So, why would the definition of this historic and highly sought after category being reviewed, and potentially changed?
Matt Healy, one of the teachers on our Certificate in Irish Whiskey, explains more...
In 2021, the Irish Whiskey Association, the Irish Whiskey Guild who together represent an overwhelming majority of Irish whiskey producers, made a submission to the Department of Agriculture in Ireland to amend the definition enclosed within the Irish Whiskey Technical File, to more accurately reflect Ireland’s distilling history.
The current definition, which is used by the EU to enforce the Geographic Indication on Irish Whiskey, states that Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey must contain a minimum of 30% malted barley, 30% unmalted barley as well as being able to contain up to 5% other grains “such as oats, wheat and rye”.
It has been known for some time that this 30/30/5 definition of Single Pot Still whiskey, does not reflect the historical mashbills distilled across the country over the last two hundred years. In-fact, there has been a Single Pot Still whiskey released within every decade going back to at least 1900, which would violate this rule.
As such, a new definition was proposed by these industry groups, with the archival research aid, from PhD Candidate and Edinburgh Whisky Academy contributor Fionnán O’Connor. This new definition would see the inclusion of “other grains” raised from a 5% maximum to a maximum of up to 30% other grains, while restricting these grains to just oats, wheat and rye. This new proposed definition includes almost all Single Pot Still recipes distilled in Ireland over the last 200 years and accurately reflects the whiskeys that would have been distilled across the island, while also allowing breadth for modern interpretations and innovations within the category.
This proposed 30/30/30 definition has received industry wide support, as well as chemical and archival analysis outlining the accuracy of these recipes to distillates from Ireland’s distilling past.
The Irish Department of Agriculture has been undertaking a long deliberation process on the new proposed definition and has decided to undertake a public consultation process to allow the public submit their opinions and concerns about this new definition. This deliberation process has yet to have a date set, but it is expected to be opened before the end of the year. Once opened, the debate and discourse within the industry will be ignited by distillers, brand owners and consumers alike as a historically accurate definition strives for a place in the books of law.
Daithí O’Connell, Founder of W.D. O’Connell Whiskey Merchant and Co-Founder of the Irish Whiskey Guild explains that, “Changes are not being requested for the sake of change but for the long term future of our industry in Ireland. The resurgence of Irish whiskey is still in its infancy and largely driven by one producer and Pot Still within the overall category makes up such a very small % overall sales volumes that it is now that is the ideal time to make these proposed changes as it will allow pot still to show its true potential on the global whiskey stage.”
It will be incredibly important for the court of public opinion to rally behind the support of this change to ensure that the definition of Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey is accurately portrayed in Irish and EU law.
More information will be posted as and when it happens.
For further information on this topic and all the Irish Whiskey news from Matt, please follow him at potstilled.com.