In a comprehensive assessment published over the weekend on Forbes.com, leading commentator Joseph V Micallef called-out the Irish government’s 'schizophrenic attitude toward the Irish whiskey industry'.
Micallef, a leading US wine and spirits writer, wrote the article, “The Future of Irish Whiskey: Is Dublin A Help Or A Hindrance”, and in it, he claimed that the Irish government is shooting the industry in the foot.
His concluding paragraph reads; ‘The comeback of the Irish whiskey industry has been impressive. Its success notwithstanding, the finish line is still a long way off. History has shown that it’s a bad idea to count out the Irish, their whiskey producers included. It would be a good idea, however, if their government didn’t keep shooting the industry in the foot.’
Public Health Act
Micallef claims that, despite the fact that the government likes the hundreds of millions of euros that the industry dumps into its coffers, it is crippling the industry’s growth, citing the recently tabled Public Health Act.
He said that, in the middle of a whiskey revolution driven by tourism, the new Bill “would sharply curtail the ability of Irish distillers to advertise in public”.
“On the one hand,” he writes, “Dublin wants to encourage new distilleries and whiskey related tourism, seeing it as an important driver of rural development and a source of significant growth for the economy.
“On the other hand, the Irish government has imposed one of the highest tax rates on spirits in the EU, and taken a variety of steps to discourage the consumption of whiskey and other spirits. The Public Health Act recently tabled, being the most recent example.
“It is as if Dublin wants the lucrative tax revenue that the industry generates, the promise of rural jobs and development it can create, not to mention the tourism dollars and visitors it encourages, while at the same time preferring that no one actually drinks the stuff.”
'Indisputable & Impressive'
Micallef said that, while Irish whiskey dominates the global market (with Irish Distillers, Bushmills, Cooley/Kilbeggan and Tullamore D.E.W claiming between 85% and 90% of the global market) the industry is out of touch with the global market.
He highlighted that most Irish Whiskey blends are entry level expressions priced under $50, which dominate volume sale as premium spirits fall behind. He did, however, add that the Irish whiskey revival is only young, and there is a shortage of mature spirits.
Responding to the article, William Lavelle, Head of the Irish Whiskey Association said that it is “very welcome to see one of the most-renowned international media outlets giving over space to critically-assess the success of Irish whiskey category; and to recognise the ‘indisputable and impressive’ growth of our industry.
“It is equally worrying that the reputation of the Irish whiskey industry and the credibility of the Irish Government are being put-at-risk from the increasingly-negative international perception that the proposed Alcohol Bill is both excessive and disproportionate.”
“It’s not too late for Government to sit-down with our industry and agree on reasonable amendments to the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill which both meet the objectives of the bill while protecting the Irish whiskey category,” Lavelle concluded.
© 2018 Checkout – your source for the latest Irish retail news. Article by Aidan O’Sullivan. Click subscribe to sign up for the Checkout print edition.