Whisky Advocate

New Scotch Whisky Regulations Take Effect

November 30th, 2009

As many of you know, new Scotch whisky regulations are now in effect. A summary of these regulations, along with a link to the actual regulations, was posted on the Scotch Whisky Association’s website. I have included it below.

Some of the requirements are significant. Do you have any thoughts or comments on these new regulations and its impact on whisky?

1. The Scotch Whisky Regulations (2009/2890) represent a definitive statement on the definition and presentation of Scotch Whisky. Full details of the new law can be found at


2. The key provisions of the new law include:

? 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 Whiskies.

? 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.

18 Responses to “New Scotch Whisky Regulations Take Effect”

  1. You did not mention that single malt whisky now has to be distilled in pot stills. This solely affects Loch Lomond distillery which happens to be not an SWA member. Honi soit qui mal y pense…

  2. John Hansell says:

    Yes, Oliver, you are correct. This is just a summary. The link has the actual regulations. (The summary is from the SWA, so they chose to not include it.)

  3. As I have followed the discussions of this subject (here and various other places), and I’ve been amazed by it all. The intent I interpret from of most of this is to protect the ignorant consumer.

    Seems much ado about not much.

    Am I missing something?

  4. Red_Arremer says:

    Any new law, no matter what its intentions, is gauranteed to mess with someone’s business, Two-Bit. Typically, quality control regulations establish standards that conform to the programs that big players already have in place. Small, individualistic and nonconformist enterprises suffer along with the those who allegedly produce inauthentic, low quality goods.

    For instance, what will Michel Couvreur, who ages malt scotch in Burgundy and then vats it, do now? Let’s hope that he can come up with a new brand concept that allows him to continue doing the individualisting thing that he does and still make a profit.

    And what about John Glaser? He sold all of his products as “vatted malt.” It’s now illegal to for something to be branded simultaeneously as both scotch and vatted malt. I guess he’ll have to use the term “pure malt.”

    Loch Lomond’s already been mentioned. I have absolutely no idea how things will turn out for them. I’m sure there are others, who will also be adversely and unjustly affected.

    Generally though, I think the regulations regarding bottling and maturation are for the best. The outsourcing of these two aspects of scotch production could be extremely profitable for big spirits conglomerates like Diageo and that means that it’s a serious threat. Speaking of which, considering Diageos massive clout in the SWA, I’m a little suprised that the bottling and maturation regulations stayed in at all.

  5. lawschooldrunk says:

    what happens when you blend a single grain whisky made from 100% wheat with a single grain whisky made from 100% barley? Is it called a blended grain scotch whisky or a blended scotch whisky? what if the wheat was blended with 100% oat, rye, spelt, corn, or rice?

  6. Steffen Bräuner says:

    They can still label their product “whisky” and “malt whisky”, they just have to omit the word “scotch”
    One question! anyrhing prohibiting an entrepeneur like Couvreur labeling his product “Distilled in Scotland” instead of Scotch ?


  7. Del Sneddon says:

    “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.” – how will this work for independents like Douglas Laing who are obliged to change Glenfarclas to “Speyside’s finest?”

  8. Steffen Bräuner says:

    “Speyside finest” isn’t a distillery name so it’s free to use. Using Cardhu (Cardow) as name for a blended malt won’t be allowed thou as Cardhu is name of a distillery. Diageo tried to do that a few years back


  9. Steffen Bräuner says:

    What’s the exact definition of a pot still by the way ?


  10. Red_A…

    Thanks for that, but John Glaser won’t be able to use the term “pure malt.” There’s a paragraph that specifically prohibits its use. I still have some Johnnie Walker Green that says Pure Malt, too.

  11. How about the Speyside distilleries, Glenfarclas is one, that labels its malts as “Single Highland Malt Scotch Whisky.” Will they have to replace Highland with Speyside now? Or does the section that follows the definitions of the five regions allow them to still say Highland?

  12. Red_Arremer says:

    Oh yeah, Two Bit. Meant “blended malt.” Surprised I overlooked that.

  13. John Hansell says:

    Thanks guys, for clarifying everything before I had a chance to respond. Anyone else have any other questions?

    Steffen, I think most of us know what a pot still is, but I’m not sure of the exact definition. Did you go back to the link of the official regulations? Maybe it’s there?

  14. MrTH says:

    Why the bottling stipulation for single malts, but not for blends? If a malt bottled outside Scotland is not legitimately Scotch whisky, how can such a blend be? I have a hard time shaking the notion that this has been done purely to make things more difficult for independent bottlers.

  15. Red_Arremer says:

    I just looked at the document and you’re right TH. Nix my statements about being surprised that Diageo allowed the bottling regulation to go through. I bet that in the next decade we’ll see a lot of blended scotch bottling operations going outside of Scotland.

  16. Scotty Freebairn says:

    I don’t have any problem with these new regulations, and it does not bother me that a few Scotchs are bottled in the US. (Clan MacGregor comes to mine from the most highly esteemed William Grant.)

  17. I like Scotty have no problems with the new regs, a bit sad to see “vatted” go but glad to see the back of “Pure”, it’s all good for the consumer as far as I can see, comment 3 has hit the nail on the head.

    In regard to “Distilled in Scotland” query I think the act already has that well covered as well as numerous court cases.

  18. Neil Fusillo says:

    Ah, the glory of political backlash. These are all reactions to press that Scotch has had recently — the Pure Malt disaster, the discussions of the possibilities of offshoring malts, etc. For the most part, I see them as a step in the right direction, although, as with most reactive regulations, they’re always going to screw SOMEone.

    The one I really don’t understand is the pot still requirement. What’s wrong with getting creative with still design? Is that some sort of affront to the nature of Scotch? That one really confuses me.

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