Irish drinks group in ‘Black Irish’ trademark battle with Mariah Carey

Irish spirits group says objections from singer’s team are ‘unfounded’

Richard Ryan, director of Darker Still Spirits Company, with a bottle of its Black Irish drink. The image mimics the one Mariah Carey used in an Instagram post to announce her liqueur of the same name.

The founders of Darker Still Spirits Company say they remain the owners of the "Black Irish" trademark in the EU and the UK despite what they called "unfounded" objections from a team connected to US pop superstar Mariah Carey, who last week unveiled a cream liqueur with the same name.

Darker Still Spirits Company, with an address in Dublin, launched its Black Irish whiskey-stout blend in June 2020, more than year before Carey posed on a beach for an Instagram post announcing her new venture, which is named to reflect her heritage. The Hero and All I Want for Christmas is You singer's product is yet to be distributed outside the US.

"The Darker Still Spirits Company can confirm that despite unfounded objections from Mariah's team we still have the legal ownership of the 'Black Irish' trademark in the EU and UK," said David Phelan, an Irish drinks industry veteran and one of the founders of Black Irish.

“Following a successful acquisition of the brand name that was filed with the relevant IPO office in 2015, we launched the original Black Irish whiskey brand in June 2020. It is a unique offering, named after and created using Ireland’s two most famous exports – black stout and Irish whiskey,” he said.


Carey’s legal team objected to the trademark on the basis that it had “not been put to genuine use within a continuous period of five years” from its original filing in July 2015.

However, lawyers for Darker Still Spirits Company have amassed evidence to the contrary, including design work completed in 2019 and initial test sales in Temple Bar.

‘Unprecedented’ position

Mr Phelan, who is also the co-creator of Boru Vodka, joined forces with Richard Ryan and Steven Pattison of Belfast design studio Drinksology for Black Irish, while Adrian Walker, who Mr Phelan worked with on Coole Swan Irish cream liqueur, is the fourth director of the company.

“Myself and my partners in Darker Still are collective veterans of the Irish drinks industry and it is unprecedented that we are defending our position against a US company, within an Irish industry that we have helped support for over 30 years,” said Mr Phelan.

Darker Still’s drink is a blend of grain and triple-distilled malt whiskey, which has been aged in bourbon casks and made dark with stout and infusions of chocolate malt and roasted barley.

"Despite being subject to these distractions, it is business as usual and we are expanding the presence of our original Black Irish whiskey across all of Europe, " said Mr Phelan.

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery is an Irish Times journalist writing about media, advertising and other business topics