Laddieblog on Scotch Labeling Controversy (Again); Plus SWA Releases Audit of Industry Marketing Practices (A-OK)

Bruichladdich’s Mark Reynier weighed in again Friday on the simmering controversy over new labeling rules from the Scotch Whisky Association:

Clearly the SWA has a very difficult position squeezed between upholding the reputation of Scotch whisky, acceding to commercial pressures of its owners, and accommodating the numerous practices, customs and interpretations that have been allowed to develop over the decades. Personally, I think it is untenable.

The SWA chief executive admitted that the draft regulations were indeed unclear and had needed more precise drafting. He insisted there was no influence on the association from the larger members of the association. Yeah, right.

Late last year, the U.K. government announced plans to tighten rules for Scotch whisky in association with the SWA, ostensibly to cut back on inauthentic labeling. (Here’s a PDF of the DEFRA report.)

The discussions erupted in controversy when the SWA proposed creating a new label for whiskies that use various single malts from different distilleries. These are currently known as “vatted malt,” but the new rules would allow them to be called “blended malt.” This in contrast to the current definition of “blended whisky” as a mix of malt and grain whisky.

Critics like Reynier suggest that the change will confuse consumers, threaten single malts and lead to a more homogenous product, dominated by giant distillers such as Diageo and Pernod Ricard, which are allegedly pulling the strings.

The Telegraph has a good explainer on the issue from April. And here’s a rundown on Diageo’s original move in 2003 that started the whole mess when it changed Cardhu from a single malt to a vatted malt (using single malts from different distilleries), but re-labeled the new product as a “pure malt.”

Legislation was supposed to be enacted in June to make the new labeling rules law, but I can’t find anything and it looks like this has been postponed until November.

Also Friday, the SWA put out an audit of whisky marketing practices and gave the industry a thumbs up. Nothing to see here people. Move on.

~ by whisky1 on August 29, 2008.

One Response to “Laddieblog on Scotch Labeling Controversy (Again); Plus SWA Releases Audit of Industry Marketing Practices (A-OK)”

  1. […] to come out with the new designations in September, following months of debate and controversy, particularly over the proposed new category of “blended malt.” Are you all aware that the laws are to change? We will shortly have written into statute the […]

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