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Spirit drinks

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Spirit drinks

Harmonising measures regarding European marketing of spirit drinks helps to protect consumers and further develop the sector. This legal framework favours the introduction of technological innovation alongside traditional methods of production.


Regulation (EC) No 110/2008 of the European Parliament and the Council of 15 January 2008 on the definition, description, presentation, labelling and protection of geographical indications of spirit drinks and repealing Council Regulation (EEC) No 1576/89 [See amending act(s)].


This Regulation sets the rules regarding the definition, description, presentation and labelling of spirit drinks, and also the protection of geographical indications. It applies to all spirit drinks, whether produced in the European Union (EU) or in a third country.

Spirit drinks

Spirit drinks are alcoholic drinks intended for human consumption. By definition, spirit drinks possess particular organoleptic qualities and have a minimum alcoholic strength of 15 % vol. Spirit drinks are produced either directly by distillation, by maceration or by the addition of flavourings, or by mixing a spirit drink with another drink, ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin or certain distillates.

Annex II to the Regulation contains a list of the spirit drinks classified by category (rum, whisky, vodka, etc.).

Sales denomination

Spirit drinks which meet the specifications applicable to the products defined in one of the 46 categories of spirit drinks in Annex II shall be marketed under one of the denominations listed in the Annex. Spirit drinks which do not meet the specifications required for their inclusion in one of the 46 categories in Annex II shall be marketed under the denomination ‘spirit drink’.

Spirit drinks which meet the specifications of several of the categories in Annex II may be sold under one or more of the denominations listed for these categories.

Sales denominations may be supplemented or replaced by a geographical indication so long as this does not mislead the consumer.

Labelling and presentation

The general rules concerning the presentation and labelling of foodstuffs apply to spirit drinks.

However, specific labelling and presentation rules are provided for by this Regulation. Where the labelling of a spirit drink indicates the raw material used to produce the ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin, each agricultural alcohol used shall be mentioned in descending order of the quantity used.

The term ‘blend’, ‘blending’ or ‘blended’ may be used only if the spirit drink is a blend of two or more spirit drinks belonging to the same category. These drinks are distinguished only by minor differences in composition due to the method of preparation, the stills employed, the period of maturation or ageing or the geographical area of production.

The maturation period or age may be specified only where it refers to the youngest alcoholic component and provided it was subject to revenue supervision or equivalent.

Lead-based capsules or foil may not be used as closing devices for the containers of spirit drinks.

The particulars provided for in this Regulation shall be given in one or more official languages of the European Union so as to better inform the consumer, except:

  • the terms in italics in Annex II;
  • the geographical indications registered in Annex III.

Geographical indications

The geographical indication identifies a spirit drink as originating in the territory of a country, or a region or locality in that territory, where a given quality, reputation or other characteristic of that spirit drink is essentially attributable to its geographical origin.

Registration of a geographical indication

An application for registration is submitted to the European Commission by the Member State or third country concerned. The application shall include a technical file comprising the following information:

  • the name and category of the spirit drink including the geographical indication;
  • a description of the spirit drink;
  • the definition of the geographical area;
  • a description of the method for obtaining the spirit drink;
  • details bearing out the link with the geographical environment or the geographical origin;
  • any requirements laid down by European, national and/or regional provisions;
  • the name and contact address of the applicant;
  • any supplement to the geographical indication and/or any specific labelling rule.

The Commission shall verify, within 12 months of the date of submission of the application, whether that application complies with this Regulation before publishing the technical file in the Official Journal of the European Union.

Within six months of the date of publication of the technical file, any natural or legal person may object to the registration of the geographical indication.

Cancellation of a geographical indication

The Commission may cancel the registration of a geographical indication if the spirit drink no longer possesses the characteristics detailed in the technical file which accompanied the application for registration.



Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Regulation (EC) No 110/2008



OJ L 39 of 13.2.2008

Amending act(s)

Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Regulation (EC) No 1334/2008



OJ L 354 of 31.12.2008

Successive amendments and corrections to Regulation (EC) 110/2008 have been incorporated in the basic text. This consolidated version is for reference purposes only.


Commission Regulation (EC) No 936/2009 of 7 October 2009 applying the agreements between the European Union and third countries on the mutual recognition of certain spirit drinks [Official Journal L 264 of 8.10.2009]. Following agreements between the European Union and the USA and Mexico, the use of descriptions for certain spirit drinks (including "Tennessee Whisky or Tennessee Whiskey", "Bourbon Whisky or Bourbon Whiskey or Bourbon as a description of Bourbon Whiskey", "Tequila" and "Mezcal") must conform to the law in those countries.

See also

Last updated: 20.01.2011