IF the Scotch Whisky Association and the Scottish and UK governments needed any more ammunition in their fight to preserve the Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status of Scotch, they need only look across the Irish Sea where sales of whiskey with an “e” are soaring.

Yet again sales of Irish whiskey have increased, according to the Irish Whiskey Association (IWA), and though Scotch far outsells it worldwide, there’s no doubt that whiskey is on the up and up, not least because the IWA. has secured protection for Irish Whiskey around the world. They see this as a vital tool in selling their product, and Australia and South Africa are the latest countries to recognise the trademark.

According to the IWA, demand for Irish whiskey has doubled in the past decade, from sales of six million cases in 2010 to more than 12 million cases anticipated to be sold in 2020.

The USA is whiskey’s biggest market among the 140 countries in which it is sold. Almost 43% of world whiskey sales take place in America, and in 2018 sales exceeded $1 billion, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the US.

IWA head William Lavelle told Euronews: “Consumers are flocking to Irish whiskey really because of its approachability. Because of the Irish climate, because of the way that we double and triple distil our whiskey, it’s very approachable to consumers and it can be consumed in a whole variety of ways – as a shot, on the rocks, as a long-sip and in cocktails.

“And its suitability for cocktails is helping drive sales, particularly among millennials.”

The National: Gozo’s churches are among the attractions it boastsGozo’s churches are among the attractions it boasts

Momentum grows in Malta for tunnel link

MOST tourists when asked about Malta are probably aware that there is a small island nearby called Gozo – which is an attraction in itself.

Until recently, the two islands were linked by a ferry service which had just three ferries to maintain this, but a fourth has been added and still the islanders of the Maltese archipelago think that more and better transport is needed.

Hence the long-running discussion on the islands, which have a total population less than that of Edinburgh, about the possibility of a tunnel to link the islands under the Gozo Channel which separates them – a prospect first raised even before Malta.

With a minimum width of just 2.8 miles, the Channel would require a two-lane tunnel about 8m long to allow for an entrance and exit on to the road network on each island.

Such a plan is already in existence, and that length of tunnel would be well within the competence of most of the civil engineering companies that specialise in such work.

The Maltese Government have already voted in favour of a tunnel, and the project has strong support on Gozo in particular, as the island is trying to boost its already impressive tourist attractions such as Unesco world heritage site the Ggantija Temples, the Azure Window and the various churches that dot the island.

Last month, Malta’s infrastructure minister Ian Borg said that plans are moving at a fast pace, and that documents are being prepared for a public call for offers for the project, which could get under way next year.

Joseph Borg of Gozo Business Chamber this week told Malta Today: “We have been proposing a fourth ship for many years, but the addition of a ferry is not the ultimate solution to the problem of commuting between Malta and Gozo.

“We feel that the fact we now have a fourth vessel is very positive and has shortened queues. But it still doesn’t replace the tunnel.”

Estonia set to name 2024 cultural capital

The National: Tartu in southern Estonia could be a Cultural CapitalTartu in southern Estonia could be a Cultural Capital

HAVING been chosen as the host country for a European Cultural Capital in 2024, Estonia will name the host location later today.

The Ministry of Culture in Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, will host the event revealing whether the city of Tartu in southern Estonia or the north-eastern town of Narva, which is right on the border with Russia, has been chosen.

Beatriz Garcia, the chair of an international committee of cultural experts, along with Keit Kasemets, the head of the European Commission representation to Estonia, and Estonia’s culture minister Tonis Lukas will announce the winner of the two-year assessment programme.

Estonia, which has a population less than a quarter of that of Scotland, has held the cultural capital title once before – it was Tallinn itself in 2011.

Tartu’s website says it will concentrate on “the power of the arts in affecting Europe’s future in three areas of life: an environmentally friendly culture with a focus on real human communication, strong communities and essential skills for living, and survival in the coming years.”

Given its big neighbour, it’s not surprising that Narva has “The End of East and West” as a foundation of its programme, which shows that in spite of big politics, cultural and civic diplomacy have an essential role to play.

Their website adds: “The second pillar of the programme is called ‘Untold Stories’, which shines a light on parts of everyday life which tend to be overlooked by arts or culture.

“The third pillar – ‘Manufacturing Futures’ – ties culture and arts with entrepreneurship and new technologies.”

Two other cities will be cultural capitals in 2024 – one from Austria and one from an EU candidate country ... perhaps Scotland?