By Kevin Duguid and Kirsty Topping
SCOTLAND’S whisky industry has put new legislation, which is designed to protect the national drink, to the test – and won.
In a landmark first the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) took a Glasgow-based company to court accusing it of passing off alcohol from Panama as the real deal.
The case was the first time the new Scotch Whisky Regulations, drawn up in 2009, had been used.
The company involved, Reynald & Sons has now changed its advertising and has promised not to breach the rules again.
Experts welcomed the victory, saying it would help protect the reputation of the 35 billion-per-year industry, which employs 35,000 people.
The SWA case centered on 14 brands sold by international wholesalers Reynald & Sons, including Sir Edwins, Paddington and Golden Dollar. Each bore the name
The company website bore the phrase
“our Scotch Whisky’ and claimed to have sold more than a million cases.
The SWA, which protects the image of scotch whisky across the globe, tested samples of the drinks which indicated that they were mad of
“unaged neutral alcohol and flavourings’ and had been manufactured in the Central American country of Panama.
They then launched civil proceedings at the Court of Session against Reynald & Son and its sole director Reynald Grattagliano.
The purpose of the action, according to the SWA, was
“to prevent them selling or advertising spirits in a way that falsely suggests that they are Scotch Whisky.”
However the case was settled before reaching court and Reynald & sons have provided the SWA with
“a number of undertakings that they will not… engage in any conduct that is likely to lead to a spirit which is not Scotch Whisky being passed off as Scotch Whisky. “
A spokesman for the Scotch Whisky Association said: “We are pleased that we have received an undertaking that the company will not engage in any conduct that is likely to lead to a spirit which is not Scotch Whisky being passed off as Scotch Whisky.
“Our concern has been that this company was misleading consumers and unfairly trading on Scotch Whisky’s reputation. This is the first time the new Scotch Whisky Regulations, passed in 2009, have been used in Scotland, providing the highest levels of protection for consumers and Scotch Whisky.”
Writer and Scotch Whisky expert Charlie MacLean:
“The SWA is absolutely right to go at them. They were in breach and damaging the reputation of Scotch whisky.
“The definition is very important to protect the high global reputation of Scotch whisky. It is very important that stuff that it is not Scotch whisky is clear so consumers don’t get duped. “
Mark Reynier, managing director of the world-famous Bruichladdich distillery on Islay, said:’It’s a good thing. It’s exactly what the Scottish Whisky association should be doing, protecting the name and reputation of Scotch whisky.
“Neutral alcohol with added flavourings is not Scotch whisky. “
Seona Burnett, a Partner at national law firm McGrigors, said:
“Theseproceedingsshow how effective the 2009 regulations can potentiallybe inprotectingthe reputation of Scotch whiskyproducts.
“The importance ofprotecting the Scotch whisky industry against products which arenot properlylabelledcannot be underestimated and this case is good news for legitimate operators.”
Lawyers for the company confirmed that the advertising had been changed but denied that they had intended to mislead people over the origin of their product.
Graham Craik of McClure Naismith LLP, speaking on behalf of Mr Grattagliano, said:
“The company did not intend to pass off its whisky as Scotch Whisky.
“Scottish Spirits is the name of the company and it sold a range of spirits including Scotch whisky.
“We did not think the wording was misleading but the SWA did and we did not want to go up against such a large body when Mr Grattagliano has made such an investment in the Scottish whisky industry.
“We believe in protecting the name and identity of Scotch whisky. “