Skull Splitter wins reprieve from Portman

Sinclair Breweries has successfully defended its Skull Splitter ale brand against a case before to the Portman Group independent complaints panel that the brand’s name and imagery could encourage violence.

The panel accepted the company’s argument that the name referred to an ancient Viking earl of Orkney, and was thus not in contravention of the spirit of the Portman code on marketing and packaging.

Skull Splitter was one of 11 brands whose owners refused to alter their packaging or marketing after a random audit earlier this year by management consultant PIPC, on behalf of Portman, carried out to examine the effectiveness of the code.

The brewer’s case even won the support of a motion in the Scottish Parliament.

Managing director Norman Sinclair said: “It’s been a long process but, as responsible brewers, we accepted it was something we just had to undergo if we were to save our ale.

“Our campaign was vigorous, but we tried to cooperate with the Portman Group as much as possible, recognising that they also had a job to do.

“Clearly they’ve listened to what we’ve said and I think that’s very encouraging for the drinks industry as a whole.”

The independent complaints panel also ruled in favour of Brewdog over issues around its Riptide, Punk IPA and Hop Rocker brands.

The panel also refused to uphold complaints against Monte Alabn from Constellation Spirits, Halewood’s Red Square Reloaded, and two beers from Hogsback – OTT and Brewster’s Bundle.

The only one of the 11 against which a complaint was upheld was Inver House Distiller’s Big Beastie, whose packaging was deemed to have particular appeal to under-18s.

One product facing a complaint is no longer in production and a decision about another will be made in January.

Inver House will voluntarily withdraw Big Beastie in early 2009.

Portman chief executive David Poley said: “We have gone to great lengths to be certain that the industry’s house is in order.

“[The panel] allows companies to explain the rationale and context of their marketing.

“This enables the panel to consider the whole of the product’s marketing mix before reaching a decision.”