Irish whiskey distillers are in the advanced stages of drafting a document to give their products protected name status in the EU.

A document laying down the defining characteristics of Irish whiskey is being drawn up by the Irish Spirits Association (ISA), in co-operation with distillers.

Aoife Clarke, senior executive at the ISA, told just-drinks yesterday (7 January) that the file is "at quite an advanced stage" and would soon be handed over to the Irish government.

If approved, ministers will then take the file to the European Commission, which will decide whether to make Irish whiskey a protected designation of origin (PDO), a status already enjoyed by Scotch distillers.

While the complete process is expected to take months and perhaps even years, distillers are excited about the plan, which they believe could help to stamp out counterfeits and add value to their products.

Clarke said that the ISA has received advice on its application from the Scotch Whisky Association. "We're fairly confident. We have a very strict production standard already, due to the Irish Whiskey Act of 1980."

Michael McArdle, CEO of international operations at C&C Group, which owns Tullamore Dew whiskey, said: "If you can regulate the standards then you premiumise the industry and it becomes more valuable."

A similar document is being drawn up for Irish cream liqueurs, which concerns C&C's Carolans brand and also Diageo's Baileys brand, which is the market leader.

The Irish Spirits Association is part of the Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland, which in turn represents the industry at the Irish Business and Employers Confederation.

All three are involved in the bid to gain EU protection for Irish whiskey and cream liqueurs.