Starting yesterday, some new wide-ranging regulations have gone into effect in Scotland: Scotch Whisky Regulations 2009. Here is the BBC story, here is the Scotsman.com story, and here is the full text of the new legislation.
These regulations have been greatly welcomed by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA), as SWA's chief executive, Gavin Hewitt, said: "This is landmark legislation for Scotch Whisky delivering important benefits for consumers, distillers, and the economy. Additional protection, including the requirement to bottle single malt Scotch whisky in Scotland, helps safeguard Scotch from unfair and deceptive practices... The new labelling rules provide a unique opportunity to promote consumer understanding of Scotch worldwide."
Among the new regulations are the following key provisions:
* Five categories of Scotch Whisky are defined for the first time; Single Malt Scotch
Whisky, Single Grain Scotch Whisky, Blended Malt Scotch Whisky, Blended Grain Scotch
Whisky, and Blended Scotch Whisky.
* These compulsory category sales terms will be required to appear clearly and prominently on all labels.
* A requirement to only bottle Single Malt Scotch Whisky in Scotland.
* New rules to prevent the misleading labelling and marketing of Single Malt Scotch
* A ban on the use of the term ‘Pure Malt’.
* A ban on the use of a distillery name as a brand name on any Scotch Whisky which has not been wholly distilled in the named distillery.
* Protection of five traditional whisky regions of production; Highland, Lowland, Speyside, Islay, and Campbeltown.
* A requirement that Scotch Whisky must be wholly matured in Scotland.
* Clear rules on the use of age statements on packaging.
* Designation of HM Revenue & Customs as the verification authority for Scotch Whisky.
Now for the "techie" bit...
The Scotch Whisky Regulations 2009 is the new definitive legislation establishing what is, and what is not, acceptable [the "Scotch Whisky Act 1988" is repealed by its enactment, likewise the "Scotch Whisky (Northern Ireland) Order 1988"(b) is revoked].
So the new definition of Scotch whisky is:
1. "A whisky produced in Scotland that
(a) has been distilled at a distillery in Scotland from water and malted barley (to which only whole grains of other cereals may be added) all of which have been—
(i) processed at that distillery into a mash;
(ii) converted at that distillery into a fermentable substrate only by endogenous enzyme systems; and
(iii) fermented at that distillery only by the addition of yeast;
(b) has been distilled at an alcoholic strength by volume of less than 94.8 per cent so that the distillate has an aroma and taste derived from the raw materials used in, and the method of, its production;
(c) that has been matured only in oak casks of a capacity not exceeding 700 litres;
(d) that has been matured only in Scotland;
(e) that has been matured for a period of not less than three years;
(f) that has been matured only in an excise warehouse or a permitted place;
(g) that retains the colour, aroma and taste derived from the raw materials used in, and the method of, its production and maturation;
(h) to which no substance has been added, or to which no substance has been added except — (i) water; (ii) plain caramel colouring; or (iii) water and plain caramel colouring; and
(i) that has a minimum alcoholic strength by volume of 40%.
2. In these Regulations —
*“Single Malt Scotch Whisky” means a Scotch Whisky that has been distilled in one or more batches—
(a) at a single distillery;
(b) from water and malted barley without the addition of any other cereals; and
(c) in pot stills;
*“Single Grain Scotch Whisky” means a Scotch Whisky that has been distilled at a single distillery except —
(a) Single Malt Scotch Whisky; or
(b) a Blended Scotch Whisky;
*“Blended Malt Scotch Whisky” means a blend of two or more Single Malt Scotch Whiskies
that have been distilled at more than one distillery;
*“Blended Grain Scotch Whisky” means a blend of two or more Single Grain Scotch Whiskies that have been distilled at more than one distillery; and
*“Blended Scotch Whisky” means a blend of one or more Single Malt Scotch Whiskies with one or more Single Grain Scotch Whiskies.
Operationally, this has various consequences enumerated in the "general interpretation" section. Of special relevance in this section, note the following:
(1) A person must not label, package, sell, advertise or promote any drink as Scotch Whisky or Scotch if it is not Scotch Whisky.
(2) A person must not label, package, sell, advertise or promote any drink in any other way that creates a likelihood of confusion on the part of the public as to whether the drink is Scotch Whisky.
Movement from Scotland to another country
(1) A person must not move any of the following categories of Scotch Whisky from Scotland to another country in a wooden cask or other wooden holder:
(a) Single Grain Scotch Whisky;
(b) Blended Malt Scotch Whisky;
(c) Blended Grain Scotch Whisky; or
(d) Blended Scotch Whisky.
(2) During the period until (and including) 22nd November 2012, a person must not move any Single Malt Scotch Whisky from Scotland to another country in a wooden cask or other wooden holder.
(3) On and after 23rd November 2012 a person must not move any Single Malt Scotch Whisky from Scotland to another country except in a bottle (made of any inert material) that is labelled for retail sale.
(4) For the purposes of this regulation a person is regarded as having moved Scotch Whisky from Scotland to another country if they: a) physically move the whisky from Scotland to another country; or (b) arrange (whether directly or through a third party) for another person to physically move the whisky from Scotland to another country.
Compulsory sales descriptions
(1) The category into which a Scotch Whisky falls must be stated on:
(a) the front of a container of Scotch Whisky; and
(b) any individual packaging used for the transportation of the container, or used for display purposes during the marketing of the whisky, unless, in both cases, the front of the container is clearly visible through that packaging.
(2) The categories are:
(a) Single Malt Scotch Whisky;
(b) Single Grain Scotch Whisky;
(c) Blended Malt Scotch Whisky;
(d) Blended Grain Scotch Whisky; and
(e) Blended Scotch Whisky.
(3) The name of the category must be:
(a) printed in a conspicuous place in such a way as to be easily visible and legible to the naked eye and indelible so that it is clear that it is the sales description of the whisky;
(b) printed in a way that gives equal prominence to each word making up the name of the category; and
(c) as prominent as any other description of the whisky on the container or packaging, except for: (i) any separate use of the description “Scotch Whisky”; (ii) any statement relating to the year in which the whisky was distilled, the year in
which it was bottled, the period for which it was matured or the age of the whisky;
and (iii) any descriptive word or words forming part of the brand name.
(4) The name of the category must not be:
(a) overlaid or interrupted by other written or pictorial matter; or
(b) used in conjunction with any other words.
(5) But paragraph (4)(b) does not prevent the name of a Scottish locality or region from being appended to the name of the category of the whisky to indicate where the Scotch Whisky was distilled if —
(a) it appears immediately before the name of the category;
(b) the whisky was distilled in the named locality or region; and
(c) the use of that name does not otherwise contravene regulation 10 (re: locality and region geographical indications).
(6) A person must not label, package or sell any Scotch Whisky in a way that does not comply with paragraph (1), (3) or (4).
(7) A person must not label, package, sell, advertise or promote any Scotch Whisky as falling within a category if it does not fall into that category.
Locality and region geographical indications
(1) A whisky or whisky-based drink must not be labelled, packaged, advertised or promoted in a way that includes the name of a protected locality or a protected region unless:
(a) in the case of whisky, the whisky is Scotch Whisky that has been distilled in that locality or region; or
(b) in the case of a whisky-based drink, the only whisky in the drink is Scotch Whisky that has been distilled in that locality or region.
(2) But paragraph (1) does not apply in the circumstances specified in Schedule 3.
(3) A whisky or whisky-based drink must not be labelled, packaged, advertised or promoted in a way that includes any reference to a name that is similar to the name of a protected locality or protected region if, having regard to the presentation of the product as a whole, the reference may create a likelihood of confusion on the part of the public as to where the whisky or whisky-based drink was distilled.
(4) A person must not label, package, advertise or promote any whisky or whisky-based drink in a way that contravenes paragraph (1) or (3), or sell any whisky or whisky-based drink that has been labelled or packaged in that way.
(5) The protected localities are:
(a) “Campbeltown”, comprising the South Kintyre ward of the Argyll and Bute Council as that ward is constituted in the Argyll and Bute (Electoral Arrangements) Order 2006(a); and
(b) “Islay”, comprising the Isle of Islay in Argyll.
(6) The protected regions are:
(a) “Highland”, comprising that part of Scotland that is north of the line dividing the Highland region from the Lowland region;
(b) “Lowland”, comprising that part of Scotland that is south of the line dividing the Highland region from the Lowland region; and
(c) “Speyside”, comprising: (i) the wards of Buckie, Elgin City North, Elgin City South, Fochabers Lhanbryde, Forres, Heldon and Laich, Keith and Cullen and Speyside Glenlivet of the Moray Council as those wards are constituted in the Moray (Electoral Arrangements) Order 2006(b); and (ii) the Badenoch and Strathspey ward of the Highland Council as that ward is constituted in the Highland (Electoral Arrangements) Order 2006(c).
(7) In this regulation “the line dividing the Highland region from the Lowland region” means the line beginning at the North Channel and running along the southern foreshore of the Firth of Clyde to Greenock, and from there to Cardross Station, then eastwards in a straight line to the summit of Earl’s Seat in the Campsie Fells, and then eastwards in a straight line to the Wallace Monument, and from there eastwards along the line of the B998 and A91 roads until the A91 meets the M90 road at Milnathort, and then along the M90 northwards until the Bridge of Earn, and then along the River Earn until its confluence with the River Tay, and then along the southern foreshore of that river and the Firth of Tay until it comes to the North Sea.
Use of the words ‘pure’ and ‘malt’ and derivations
11. A person must not label, package, sell, advertise or promote any Scotch Whisky in a way that includes:
(a) the phrase ‘pure malt’ or any derivation of that phrase; or
(b) the words ‘pure’ and ‘malt’, or any derivation of those words in a way that, although the words are separated from each other (whether by text or otherwise), the word ‘pure’ (or any derivation of it) is used adjectivally in connection with the word ‘malt’ (or any derivation of it).
Maturation, age and distillation statements
12. --(1) Without prejudice to the obligation to comply with the directly applicable requirements of Article 12(3) of Regulation (EC) No 110/2008 (which requires, among other things, that any maturation period or age may only be specified in the description, presentation or labelling of a spirit drink where it refers to the youngest alcoholic component in the drink), a person must not label, package, sell, advertise or promote any Scotch Whisky in a way that includes a reference to its maturation period or age unless the maturation period or age is expressed in years.
--(2) A person must not label, package, sell, advertise or promote any Scotch Whisky in a way that includes a reference relating to when it was distilled unless:
(a) the reference relates to a single calendar year;
(b) all of the whisky in the drink was distilled in that year;
(c) the presentation of the whisky also includes a reference to: (i) the year of bottling of the whisky; (ii) the maturation period of the whisky; or (iii) the age of the whisky; and
(d) the reference to the year of bottling, the maturation period, or age of the whisky appears in the same field of vision as the reference to the year of distillation.
(3) A person must not label, package, sell, advertise or promote any Scotch Whisky in a way that includes a reference to any number (however expressed) if the reference to that number may create a likelihood of confusion on the part of the public as to whether the number relates to the maturation period of the whisky, its age or when it was distilled.
The remaining dozen+ pages of the regulation stipulate even more techie and administrative details, enforcement procedures, appeals processes, penalties, etc.
LOCH LOMOND DISTILLERY
One of the interesting side-effects of all of this is the narrowed focus on the "pot-still". The Loch Lomond Distillery produces a single malt using a mix of pot-stills and what are known as "Lomond-Stills" which are basically hybrid stills modified with a special rectifying head which mimics aspects of the Coffey or Column still (that is, the lyne arm is replaced by a system of horizontal parallel plates, but it is still a batch process rather than continuous) -- so the Lomond-Still is more efficient and widely considered "green" or more environmentally friendly than a traditional pot-still...but thus would seem to run afoul of this new regulation. See the Whisky Magazine story here; here is the Guardian's story. [This picture highlights the two different still designs -- pot still and Lomond still, from the Dumbarton Distillery which was mothballed in 2002; an interesting article on the Lomond Still can be found here].
John Peterson, distilling director of Loch Lomond, commented: "We have a method that produces a very good malt spirit but are being penalised because we are innovators... We want to make the process better and save considerable amounts of energy. As it is, we prevent more than 1,400 tonnes of CO2 being released every year and they want us to go back to the old inefficient ways... The SWA wants us to call it grain whisky, but it's not; if anything that's an even more misleading description. Politicians are quick to shout about climate change and how industry has to find new ways to reduce carbon output, but when we try to do something innovative we get slapped down for it."
The SWA, meanwhile, was having none of it, as a spokesman noted: "Producing a malt mash in a single still as Loch Lomond Distillery does is simply not traditional practice. Consumers understand that single malt Scotch whisky is produced in a copper pot still and therefore a malt mash distilled in a column still will not be able to continue after the regulations come into force."
I have not yet been able to determine what, if anything, has become of Loch Lomond's process which accounts for about 20 million bottles per year of "High Commissioner" blended Scotch whisky, the 3rd most popular brand in the UK.