Thursday 7 April 2011

Single Pot Still is the new Pure Pot Still

In 2010, when Irish Distillers released their Redbreast 15yo in the US, they were pulled up by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). The issue was the use of the word "pure" on the label. "Pure Pot Still" (PPS) has a well-defined, traditional meaning in Ireland (whiskey made solely from a mash of malted and unmalted grains in pot stills). Purity is a difficult concept to nail down, however, and the TTB decided that consumers would be better served by preventing the use of the word "pure" on spirits entirely.

Irish Distillers are the only remaining makers of the PPS style in Ireland so it was up to them to come up with a new term. The result: "Single Pot Still" (SPS). This works nicely for a couple of reasons. It's still clear that it's the product of pot stills (rather than column stills) but it adds the "single" designation that indicates this is the product of only one distillery. That's a concept whiskey drinkers already value in malt whiskeys ("single malts").

PPS used to be the standard whiskey style in Ireland. With the introduction of column stills and popular taste changing to favour lighter whiskeys, PPS became the exception rather than the rule. The legally protected term, "Pure Pot Still", was dropped in the 1980 Irish Whiskey Act, and subsequently misused by Cooley on some of their malt whiskeys.

Only two PPS whiskeys survive today, Redbreast and Green Spot (though it is still an important component of Jameson, Powers and other IDL brands). Such was the thorough devaluation of the PPS term that Green Spot failed to even declare this on the label.

That's all changing now. Work is ongoing to protect the term "Single Pot Still" at EU level. The Redbreast and Green Spot packaging has been updated to highlight the new term. IDL is now hinting at "innovative extensions" to the SPS range later in the year.

Brendan Buckley, Global Category Development Director for Irish whiskey at Irish Distillers, said:
This initiative symbolises a new chapter for pot still Irish whiskey, and signals renewed energy in the category. [...] we will be investing behind these brands with the clear intention of restoring our unique whiskey style to its former glory. We are confident that through this initiative, the Irish whiskey category will benefit, as more and more consumers continue to discover this exceptional style of whiskey.
That's a sentiment Irish whiskey drinkers will stand behind 100%.

And from now on, this blog will use the "Single Pot Still" term too.