The Scotland on Sunday newspaper published an article by William Lyons on the SWA's shenanigans.
The article highlights the SWA's attitude. All they can say is: it's the government's law, we have consulted everyone, it's been in the public domain for years, and no one has a better idea. This is totally disingenuous. It is equally interesting to note that critics of the SWA's laws, both journalists and distillers, did not want to give their names.
The SWA's members represent 95% of Scotland's whisky distilling capacity. 60% of the SWA is owned by just 2 companies and one of them provides the chairman! But the SWA only represents 35% of Scotch whisky companies. In other words - the mighty producers ring the bells, not the whisky industry as a whole.
The proposed law changes are entirely the work of the SWA put to DEFRA for implementation. Tellingly, one SWA official told me they would be extremely surprised if DEFRA did not implement their recommendations in entirety. Some 'consultation' then. The consultation by DEFRA lists 106 companies - but many were unaware there was a consultation process at all. Anyhow, that process itself is heroically biased in favour of the SWA's proposals unsurprisingly; the questions are leading, with some critical issues glossed over altogether. The accompanying documents even triumphantly crow about exciting new categories etc. and omit to mention any possible implications.
We do not have an issue with the concept of putting several single malts together - as long as it is clearly differentiated, both by category title, presentation and does not carry a distillery name. Passing such a whisky off as coming from a famous single malt distillery, with an intentionally confusing term 'Blended Malt' (itself a bastardisation of whisky's two best known terms 'blended whisky' and 'single malt') is patently deception, which the SWA keep telling us these regulations are to prevent. Vatted Malt - visually a clearly distinctive, separate term to Blended Whisky and Single Malt - already exists.
At the same time DEFRA 'consulted on' the relatively generic Spirits Regulations from the EU commission. This seemingly innocuous and tedious EU legislation is the SWA's Trojan Horse. Apart from being totally incomprehensible, it still seeks a single 'yes or no' answer to the whole raft of regulations, some of which enshrine these very same contentious Whisky Regulations in to EU law.
It is time there was an independent body positioned between the SWA and the government that represented Scotland's national interests. It should not be possible for a couple of multi-national conglomerates to play fast and lose with the rules to suit their own commercial needs at the expense of the credibility and future of the whole Scotch Whisky Industry.