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Scotch whisky tightens rules

By Greig Cameron on Nov 23, 09 11:24 AM in News

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My nose might not be sensitive enough to pick up the difference between a Laphroaig and a Bruichladdich in a blind taste test but even I can smell what seems like a positive step for the whisky industry.

Further protection of the product is the main aim of new rules governing the making, bottling and labelling of Scotch whisky.

The regulations, which can be found in full here, are meant to provide strong legal protection against poor quality imitations and help customers receive clearer information on labels.

There are tighter guidelines on naming of products after distilleries (eg an Oban malt must be wholly made in Oban) and also in the use of the five traditional regional whisky producing regions - Highland, Lowland, Speyside, Islay, and Campbeltown.

But perhaps the most interesting development at a local level is requirement to only bottle Single Malts in Scotland.

Not least given Paul Walsh, of Diageo, is the one hailing the development in his role as chairman of trade body The Scotch Whisky Association.

His company's attempts to modernise its bottling operations with the loss of hundreds of jobs have been well documented (including here, here and here) but Walsh clearly believes these laws are vitally important.

He said: "Working with the UK Government and officials in Scotland, these Regulations are a major step forward and form the definitive statement of the rules on making, bottling, and labelling Scotch Whisky.

"The new rules have been welcomed across the industry, benefiting small and large distillers alike, and supporting the growth of both Single and Blended whiskies."

With bottling seen as one of the areas which large drinks companies could conceivably (although not without great outrage) outsource to other countries this is a pretty significant step and closes any possibility of malt bottling being done anywhere else.

With the premium malt end of the market becoming ever more popular reserving the bottling for Scotland is good news.

Not only will it help to keep jobs in Scotland but should theoretically encourage investment in existing and new bottling facilities here.

The SWA has already said it plans to use the changes "as an opportunity to promote and grow understanding of the different categories of Scotch Whisky around the world."

This is being backed up by Scottish Development International planning up for four receptions in strategic markets on the new regulations over the next 12 months.

While Scotland is already a tourism mecca for whisky aficionados any changes which enhance the water of life's global standing are likely to have knock on benefits for the country.

A set of rules which the industry and Government agree on which could also have positive economic impacts seems like a win win.

I might even have a dram to celebrate. Slainte.

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