Single malt Welsh whisky is now officially recognized under the UK Geographical Indication (UK GI). This designation status, which went into effect on Monday, is meant to protect the name, characteristics, and tradition of products distinct to a specific area in the U.K.

The new UK GI program was launched in 2021 after the U.K. opted to withdraw from the European Union (EU), thus forgoing its ability to use the EU’s specific designation scheme. The UK GI program is intended to protect the geographical names associated with food, drink, and agricultural products that can be considered unique to where they are from.

Single malt Welsh whisky is the first spirit to be protected under this new scheme, and was granted status after four Welsh distilleries (Penderyn, In The Welsh Wind, Da Mhile, and Coles) applied for the designation.

The spirit, made using malted barley and water of 100 percent Welsh origin, has a strong tradition in the area dating back to 1887. The region’s distinct damp and moderate climate leads to an even rate of maturation, which lends to the whisky’s signature smooth flavor. Under this protected status, each step of a product’s whiskeymaking and bottling process must take place in Wales in order to use the single malt Welsh whisky name, preventing brands from outside areas from imitating the product. This allows consumers to be confident that when they are purchasing single malt Welsh whisky, the liquid is guaranteed to be authentic to the region.

This is considered to be a big step forward for Welsh whisky, as well as the UK GI program as a whole.

“Wales has a growing reputation for producing high quality food and drink and I’m delighted that Welsh whisky has now been recognised as deserving of this special status,” says Welsh Secretary David TC Davies in response to the news. “UK GI status is really important for distillers and helps them market this fantastic product around the world, and consumers know they are buying a unique product entirely made and bottled in Wales. All of this helps the industry to grow, supporting jobs and driving prosperity.”