John Teeling: Irish whiskey must not become Scotch

11th July, 2018 by Melita Kiely

The Irish Whiskey Association (IWA) “must not become the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA)”, which “stifles innovation”, Cooley Distillery founder John Teeling has warned.

John Teeling

John Teeling has said the IWA must not try to be the SWA, and Irish whiskey must not become Scotch

Teeling’s comments follow calls for more guidance for Irish whiskey producers from Waterford Distillery founder and CEO Mark Reynier.

Teeling, who is also the executive chairman of the Great Northern Distillery and was one of the co-founders of the IWA, said the trade body must not emulate the SWA and embrace the creative freedom the category has to innovate.

Addressing the issue of guidance for distillers, Teeling admitted some mistakes may have happened in the past, but said: “Irish whiskey is a new industry; we’ve had 20 new members come in and another 20 going to come in.

“You have to remember there was no IWA four years ago. So people have been feeling their way to preserve what’s good.

“Being a new industry takes a while to settle down, but we must not stifle innovation and we must not become Scotch.”

Irish whiskey has been on an upward trajectory for several years to become the fastest growing spirit category in the world.

In 2017, Irish whiskey sales grew to 9.7 million nine-litre cases – a 10.6% increase on the previous year, according to IWSR data cited by the IWA. By 2020, this figure is expected to surpass the 12m-case mark.

Teeling attributed much of the category’s success to the fact that it has not tried to be like its Scottish counterpart.

“Irish whiskey is a young person’s drink – Scotch is not,” he said. “Blended Scotch is a declining category but makes up 85% of the industry – and this is partly because rigid regulations imposed by the SWA stifles innovation.

“If we do nothing else we must encourage innovation, but in a way that ensures quality is preserved – it must, must, must be quality. I am quite comfortable that the distillers [in Ireland] are making quality whiskey.

“The first most important thing is that Irish whiskey must not become Scotch.

“The second most important thing we have to do is that the IWA must not become the SWA, which is stifling innovation.”

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