New anti-counterfeiting laws sought by the Scotch Whisky Association may have more sinister implications.
The proposed laws will add Scotch whisky ‘regions’ to an EU list of Geographical Indications that the World Trade Organisation would be obliged to protect. Currently unscrupulous overseas traders can pass off inferior products by using the regional Scottish names for domestically produced spirit that was not made there. Obviously action against counterfeiting and protecting the integrity of single malt scotch whisky is welcome.
We welcome most of the new proposals and look forward to the consultations promised, but are not holding our breath as the new laws may be in place by spring 2008. But I smell the usual SWA fait accompli. They want to redefine whisky as ‘single malt’, ‘blended whisky’, ‘blended malt’, ‘single grain’, and ‘blended grain’. But for whose benefit?
Most distillers I have spoken to disapprove of ‘blended malt’ title which replaces the perfectly OK existing term ‘vatted malt’ for a bottling of several single malts. The new term ‘blended malt’ appears to deliberately confuse two titles, the widely accepted ‘blended whisky’, and the highly misleading and illegal term ‘pure malt’.
A cynic might claim this is deliberate confusion, precisely what the SWA (prop. Diageo and Pernod Ricard) want to engender following the unsavoury Cardhu (prop. Diageo) debacle of 2004 when Diageo wanted Cardhu, a well known single malt, to become a vatted malt but misleadingly under the same single malt name and presentation. This led to vociferous claims of undermining the credibility of the single malt sector, and accusations of bully boy tactics supported by the SWA.
And what about the true relevance of the regions which owe little to taste being in reality areas for C19 bureaucratic administration of distilling licenses. They were invented when there were 22 distilleries on Islay, 32 in Campbeltown, and 30 in the Lowlands. Now there are 8, 3 and 2 respectively. For over 200 years the regions have not been organised by taste. Speyside even most of the highlands was as peated as Islay before 1840. Most spirit is not even matured where it was distilled. If the SWA were really intent on an a true appellation, the key qualitative influences of location of maturation and bottling ought to be included for true authenticity.