Whisky laws are overhauled

19 October, 2007

The UK government is to tighten definitions of Scotch whisky

to create greater protection against counterfeiting.

The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs has announced a consultation on


laws that prevent fake whisky from being sold in the UK.

The new moves will strictly regulate descriptions and geographical locations that can be used on bottles.

Hilary Benn, secretary of state for DEFRA, said: "This will take us another step closer to strengthening the UK legislation that the SWA has been telling us they need to help them protect Scotch whisky in export markets."

The decision has been applauded by distillers. Doug Ross, managing director of the Tullibardine Distillery in Blackford, Perthshire, said: "Any tightening of the regulations can only be a good thing for Scotland and we're very much in favour. It gives us further protection in terms of a brand coming from a single distillery."

Ross added that the advantages of having greater protection from imitation outweighed the costs of labelling changes.

The rules will boost whisky sales in the UK, says Whyte & Mackay off-trade sales director Simon Oldham. "People are going to buy into Scotch whisky if they know its worth paying for. They will know they're getting the genuine article."

The Scotch Whisky Association said the legislation was a good result for the industry. Chief executive Gavin Hewitt said: "Scotch whisky is vital to the Scottish and UK economy, with exports of 2.5 billion a year supporting over 65,000 jobs. Comprehensive and consolidated legislation will ensure Scotch whisky has the best possible protection from unfair practices and that consumers receive clear information about what they are buying."

Mark Reynier, managing director of Islay-based Bruichladdich Distillery, said while he welcomed "most" of the new laws, he was "pretty sceptical" about the relevance of the regions, which "owe little to taste, being in reality areas for 19th-century bureaucratic administration of distilling licences".

He added: "If the SWA were really intent on an appellation, the key qualitative influences of location of maturation and bottling ought to be included for authenticity."

What will the new regulations say?

Scotch whisky will be divided into five types - malt, single grain, blended, blended malt and blended grain

Products will be barred from using the regional names of Highland, Lowland, Speyside, Campbeltown and Islay unless they are entirely created in that region

Distillers will be prohibited from labelling whisky with the name of a distillery or a similar name if it is not a product of that distillery

Scotch whisky cannot be exported in wooden casks or in any form other than properly bottled and labelled.

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