Scotch Whisky – Consumer Issues and Petition
There are laws and regulations out there that we, as lawyers, become aware of which appear to be plain daft.
The present EU regulations on promotion and marketing of spirits prohibit a Scotch whisky blender from disclosing the composition of their blends. In other words, they are unable to tell you, as the consumer, the names, ages and proportions of the malt whiskies which actually go into their product even when they want to. In a world where we now see the full ingredients listed on the side of any product that we see in the supermarket, such a law is an anachronism.
Now, you might be a tippler who is not interested in such information as long as the glass that you are enjoying tastes good. But, whether that is the case or not, transparency is rarely a bad thing. It allows you to pick and choose and it allows the more fussy or ambitious blenders the chance to be rewarded for their endeavours over the competition even when that competition has a far greater marketing budget at its disposal to advertise and hype its product far and wide.
At present, the law allows blenders to state the age of a blend by the age of its youngest whisky component. So, for example, if you have a blend which is 10% 12 year old whisky, 50% 15 year old whisky and 40% 18 year old whisky, it can only be described as 12 year old. That is distorting the reality. It also places that particular blended whisky on the same level as a blend which is, say, 50% 12 year old whisky, 40% 15 year old whisky and 10% 18 year old whisky. In effect, a product which could be inferior in terms of quality (and most probably less cost to the producer) can only be described in the same way. So, the present half-hearted attempt at transparency is actually benefitting a more “cost-effective” producer and not a producer wishing to invest more in their product. Most importantly, the consumer will remain ignorant of what exactly they are purchasing for their money by dint of the law.
Matters have now come to a head. A blending company called Compass Box have decided to petition for a change in the law having found itself in breach of the law for providing too much information. If this campaign is new to you, you may wish, firstly, to watch a 10 minute video by one of the most engaging of whisky commentators, Ralfy Mitchell, and then follow the link to Compass Box if you are persuaded that this is a matter worthwhile supporting. Slainte Mhath!