Irish whiskey now has legal protection in South Africa

The Irish Whiskey Association (IWA) has secured trademark status for Irish whiskey in South Africa, allowing the industry more powers to take action against counterfeiters.

Inside whiskey label Jameson’s visitor centre and barrel room in Midleton, Ireland. (Photo: Edith Hancock)

The trade body has now registered Irish whiskey as a certification mark in South Africa, which is the seventh largest market for Irish whiskey in terms of volume.

Only whiskey made in Ireland may be labelled and marketed as Irish Whiskey. 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.

Irish whiskey must also be matured in Ireland, and cannot be exported in barrel.

The legal protection in South Africa helps whiskey producers to protect their businesses against counterfeiting, and allows the IWA to take legal action in the country against producers passing their spirits of as Irish whiskey.

Carleen Madigan, Legal Advisor of the Irish Whiskey Association said South Africa is a key market for Irish whiskey producers and the agreement “will ensure Irish whiskey maximises its potential and maintains its growth trajectory.”

She added that the industry has increased its investment in securing legal protection for Irish whiskey labelling threefold.

“This has enabled us to significantly expand our remit in securing the recognition and protection for Irish whiskey in important export markets, like South Africa and Australia.”

Madigan said the ruling “greatly enhances our ability to defend the industry against imitation products, which threaten the integrity of Irish whiskey and the strong reputation it has built up over many years.

“It also undermines consumer confidence in genuine Irish whiskey products.”

It is the first time Irish whiskey has had legal protection of this kind in South Africa, and follows the IWA’s success in securing a trademark for Irish whiskey in Australia in February.

In 2017, 369,000 cases, or 4.43 million bottles of Irish whiskey were sold in South Africa – an increase of 4.5% on the previous year, according to the IWA.

In the domestic market, Irish whiskey one of the fastest-growing spirits categories, behind gin.

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