What is a spirit (110/2008)

Spirit drinks are all defined in EU legislation.  The current rules are set out in Regulation 110/2008.   This legislation defines each of the individual categories of spirit: brandy, rum, gin etc., setting out, variously, their raw materials and production requirements.  This can include maximum distillation strength, maturation requirements, minimum alcoholic strength for consumer sale and the minimum sugar levels for liqueurs.  The legislation also lists every spirit with a geographical indication that have been registered in the EU.  

In all cases the raw materials for the production of spirits must come from an agricultural source.  In addition, so as to protect the quality and reputation of EU spirits on the world market, spirits exported from the EU must also comply with EU rules.

A revised Regulation was adopted by the Commission in December 2016 and the first reading in the European Parliament was voted on 1 March 2018. The outcome of the vote was very positive we are particularly satisfied that MEPs agreed that spirits should continue to be made only from agricultural raw materials and that by-products from the beer sector should not be permitted.  That decision will maintain the spirit sector’s traditional and longstanding link to agriculture, which is greatly valued by all producers.

Attention now turns to the Council where discussions on the new regulation continue.  We hope Member States will reach similarly helpful conclusions and that the institutions can then find a consensus which, while allowing for flexibility to update the legislation when necessary, respects the tradition and culture of the 47 product categories and 250 GIs produced across Europe and exported all over the world.