The Scotch Whisky Regulations 2009 have been signed off and impact on the advertising, labelling and distribution of Scotch Whisky. Over a hundred distilleries are protected including the Glenlivet, the very oldest and Glenfiddich, the most awarded. Jenny Reid samples a wee dram.
Who: Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs ("DEFRA")
Where: United Kingdom
When: 23 November 2009
Law stated as at: December 2009
The Scotch Whisky Regulations 2009 (the "Regulations") came into force on 23 November 2009, following a DEFRA consultation with input from a number of trade associations and industry players.
Scotch Whisky has a market share of over 30% of the spirit drinks sector in the UK. The export of Scotch Whisky was worth over £3 billion in 2008 and is sold in over 180 countries worldwide.
The geographical indication of Scotch Whisky is already somewhat protected by the Spirit Drinks Regulations 2008 which implemented the EC Regulation 110/2008. The industry believed, however, that this was inadequate for the protection of the product and had a number of further concerns not addressed by the earlier legislation. The Regulations have been brought into UK law to protect consumers from misleading practices and counterfeit products, to enhance the worldwide reputation of Scotch Whisky and to prevent unfair competition.
Scotch legally defined
The Regulations define "Scotch Whisky" as a whisky produced in Scotland that meets certain production criteria including, amongst other things, being distilled and matured wholly in Scotland, in oak casks of a capacity not exceeding 700 litres, for a period of not less than 3 years, and in an excise warehouse or permitted place (as defined in the Regulations).
The Regulations also contain detailed requirements and prohibitions relating to the labelling, packaging, sale, advertisement and promotion of any drink as Scotch Whisky. These include:
(a) the introduction and definition of compulsory sales descriptions which must appear clearly and prominently on all labels and which are categorised as follows: Single Malt Scotch Whisky, Single Grain Scotch Whisky, Blended Malt Scotch Whisky, Blended Grain Scotch Whisky and Blended Scotch Whisky;
(b) the use of certain, specified, locality and regional names;
(c) prohibition on the use of the term "pure malt" and derivatives;
(d) controls on the use of distillers' and distillery names;
(e) the use of statements relating to maturation, year of distillation and age; and
(f) a requirement that all Single Malt Scotch Whisky must be bottled in Scotland prior to export and that other Scotch
Whiskies are wholly matured in Scotland before being exported.
The importance of the protection of Scotch Whisky has been highlighted by senior politicians:
The Secretary of State for Scotland, Jim Murphy, has said "it is vital that we protect our key industries. We cannot allow others to trade off our good name and to pass off inferior whisky as being produced in Scotland". "[The aim is] to protect whisky customers across the globe".
According to Jim Mather, Enterprise Minister, "the Regulations will make it clear exactly what is in the bottle, where and how it was distilled and will require single malt to be bottled in Scotland".
Why this matters:
The provisions of the Regulations will be enforced by local food authorities throughout the UK. They have the power to enter any premises, with authority from a justice of the peace and according to conditions set out in Regulation 19, to ensure that the provisions are being complied with. Amongst other things, they are able to inspect and search the premises, take samples, carry out tests and seize the whisky/whisky products in question along with any computer equipment containing relevant data.
The Regulations provide for civil financial penalties and criminal sanctions for infringement. Not only can this affect the infringing companies, but their personnel may in certain cases also be liable.
Transitional provisions are in place in respect of advertising and promotion carried out on or before 22 November 2011, during which time the Regulations will not be deemed to be contravened if the specific labelling requirements set out in Regulations 8-12 are not complied with.
For the full content of the Regulations, please go to: