Whisky body seeks legal protection of definitions

Terms such as “single malt” and “Speyside” are likely to be given legal protection, under an agreement between the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) and the Scottish Executive announced earlier this week.

The SWA also wants legal protection for Speyside, Islay, Highland, Lowland and Campbeltown, so that only whiskies from those areas can use the names.

The SWA has spent a year developing a set of definitions for categories of Scotch whisky, in the wake of the furore caused by Diageo’s attempt to relaunch its Cardhu brand as a “pure malt” rather than a single malt in summer 2003. After a storm of protest from other whisky producers, Diageo withdrew the new product in spring 2004, admitting “We underestimated the strength of feeling on this issue.” (MW March 11, 2004).

The new category definitions being proposed are/ Single Malt Scotch Whisky (malt whisky from one distillery); Single Grain Scotch Whisky (grain whisky from one distillery); Blended Scotch Whisky (malt and grain whisky from several distilleries married together); Blended Malt Scotch Whisky (a blend of Single Malt Scotch Whiskies that have been distilled at more than one distillery); and Blended Grain Scotch Whisky (a blend of single grain Scotch whiskies that have been distilled at more than one distillery).

The Scottish Executive is expected to introduce a bill to give the definitions and origin names legal protection by spring 2007.

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