Whisky: counterfeiters scotched

DEFRA (the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) has announced a new package of measures designed to improve protection for the distillers of Scotch whisky. There are seven strands to the new measures:
1. Five categories of Scotch will be defined (Single Malt Scotch Whisky, Single Grain Scotch Whisky, Blended Scotch Whisky, Blended Malt Scotch Whisky and Blended Grain Scotch Whisky). These will have to be used on Scotch whisky.
2. Five regions will be defined. Only whiskies wholly distilled in one those regions will be allowed to use those names.
3. Only whisky which is a product of a particular distillery will be allowed to use the name of that distillery.
4. Labelling, packaging, presentation or advertising which suggests that a single malt was made at a distillery other than that where it was in fact made will be banned.
5. All Scotch will have to be wholly matured in Scotland
6. It will be illegal to export Scotch whisky from Scotland in wooden casks
7. It will be illegal to export single malt Scotch whisky which has not been bottled and labelled.
The IPKat reckons that Scotch whisky already has relatively powerful protection under IP law, but this set of sui generis rights will give it super-strong protection, perhaps not surprising in the light of the value of its export market. To the extent that they protect consumers from deception, they’re quite easy to justify (though strands 6 and 7 go far wider than this). However, he’s a bit concerned about the fourth strand: a rule that catches presentation and advertising could have a very wide scope indeed.
Whisky: counterfeiters scotched Whisky: counterfeiters scotched Reviewed by Anonymous on Monday, October 08, 2007 Rating: 5


  1. Dear IP Kat,

    Thank you for the blog. I wondered whether points 6 and 7 are aimed at the type of practice which used to occur here in Australia. For a long time Whiskey was imported to Australia in barrels and bottled locally. The companies that were importing the Whiskey had a practice of watering it down and the standard strength of locally bottled Whiskey was 37.5% rather than 40% as intended by the Scotish manufactuers. This practice has been stopped in Australia which I believe was as a result of pressure from the Scottish Government.

    Keep up the great work.


  2. I would have thought nos. 6 & 7 might be somewhat difficult to implement - how can they restrict a private person moving his belongings from one EU country to another? With regard to no. 4, could this be problematic for some of the smaller brands - my recollection is that most of them included "Glenlivet" in the name somewhere, hence the need for one distillery to use the brand "The Glenlivet".

  3. This newspaper story suggests that the main intent of this law is to protect the commonly-used regional designations for Scotch whiskies, "Highland", "Islay", "Lowland", "Speyside", and "Campbelltown", from abuse by makers of non-Scottish spirits.

  4. I'm starting to believe that DEFRA is a department dreamed up to come up with things to confuse consumers.


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