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The SWA Strikes Again — Dramming

The SWA Strikes Again

by Oliver Klimek on November 18, 2009

Every once in a while, the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) opens up a new battlefield because they see the traditional values of Scotch Whisky under attack. Examples include the lawsuit against the Glen Breton whisky from Canada or the threat against Compass Box because of their first edition of the Spice Tree.

The amendments to the Scotch Whisky Order of 1990 that will come into effect on November 23 will re-define Scotch single malt as malt whisky that is made by “batch distillation in pot stills”. The SWA was involved with drawing up the amendments. Not a big deal, you might say. After all, single malt always has been made this way. But there is one distillery that indeed will be affected by the cange: Loch Lomond distillery is the only distillery that uses column stills for their single malt. Needless to say that Loch Lomond is not a member of the SWA.

The Observer just published an article about the ecologial aspects, because Loch Lomond actually makes a great effort becoming an environmentally friendly distillery. The new regulations would pose a serious threat to the distillery.

It’s Not About The Whisky

Granted, Loch Lomond distillery has not got the highest reputation in the whisky universe, as they produce more for the mass market than for the high end sector. Their standard expression is a dram that most experienced whisky drinkers stay clear from. But that’s not the point here. They have been making perfectly legal single malt whisky for decades. It’s not everybody’s cup of tea, but if nobody bought their whisky, they would have long had to close down the distillery.

It’s All About Business

What is the reason for this change right now? Loch Lomond has been producing column still single malt for almost 45 years. Now it shall be illegal. If the SWA were truly concerned about the traditional way of making single malt whisky, they could have gone forward with this action much earlier.

Of course the true reason behind this is money. Loch Lomond Whisky is cheap, a standard bottle is not much more expensive than a standard blend. Many SWA members produce blended whisky, so Loch Lomond is in direct competition with them. Scraping off the “single malt” label from Loch Lomond bottles would mean that the distillery will lose an important property that sets its product apart from the blended whiskies. And in times of economic uncertainty, this is a welcome opportunity for blend producers to get rid of an annoying competitor.

And there is another thing: The Scotch whisky industry involved in drawing up regulations for Scotch whisky is like putting the fox in charge of the henhouse. Perfect lobbyism.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Steffen Bräuner November 18, 2009 at 9:07 pm

“batch distillation in pot stills” rule for single malt whisky ? Where’s your reference for that..I thought they gave that up



Oliver November 18, 2009 at 9:28 pm

The Observer article says it will be in effect on Nov 23. I suspect they are well informed.


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