Irish Distillers faces lawsuit in Ireland’s High CourtBy Amy Hopkins
Jameson maker Irish Distillers has stressed that it “welcomes the emergence of new players” as the group faces a fresh lawsuit launched on behalf of The Wild Geese Irish Whiskey.
Last week, two of the brand’s affiliates took their plight to the Irish High Court, accusing Pernod Ricard’s Ireland unit of supplying certain independent Irish whiskey brands with third party liquid while refusing The Wild Geese “without objective justification”.
Avalon, which has the exclusive sales and marketing rights for The Wild Geese Irish Whiskey, and Protégé, the exclusive sales agent for Avalon in the EU, are behind the legal action.
They believe Irish Distillers is infringing EU competition laws and are seeking a High Court Order that would require the group to supply them with Irish whiskey. Avalon and Protégé are also pursuing damages “and other reliefs”.
However, Irish Distillers said it has “at various stages” and “in good faith” proposed supply options to Protégé International, which it has refused.
Furthermore, the group said that complaints from the brand, founded by Andre Levy, “have already been adjudicated upon twice over the last decade by the European Commission and in both instances were ruled in Irish Distillers’ favour”.
A spokesperson for Irish Distillers added: “In 2012 there were less than five distilleries operating on the island of Ireland. Ireland now has 16 operational distilleries with another 15-plus 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 support for new entrants.
“Irish Distillers also actively mentors new Irish whiskey companies, inviting them to Midleton Distillery and providing advice for them on technical issues. At the heart of everything that Irish Distillers does is a desire to see Irish whiskey grow on the global stage.”
Andre Levy has previously warned that the lack of an established wholesale Irish whiskey market threatens the industry’s future growth.
According to the Irish Whiskey Association (IWA), the industry is on-track to exceed its target of selling 12 million cases by 2020. Last year, 9.7m cases of Irish whiskey were sold globally.