Imitations of Scotch whisky which describe themselves as Highland, Lowland, Speyside, Campbeltown or Islay, are to be declared made illegal henceforth.
The steps to protect the industry against counterfeiting are being put in place by the Westminster government, reports The Scotsman. At present, the brand, Scotch, is protected as a geographical product, but the regional variations and the different types of whisky are not.
AdvertisementThe tightened legislation would supersede the Scotch Whisky Act 1988 and the Scotch Whisky Order 1990, and allow certain designations of Scotch whisky to be added to an EU list of Geographical Indications, which members of the World Trade Organisation would be obliged to protect.
Hilary Benn, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary, yesterday announced a consultation will take place on bringing in stricter definitions of Scotch whisky in UK law.
Such a move could help support action against counterfeiting in the industry, which has exports worth more than two billion pounds a year to the Scottish economy, and employs around 40,000 people.
The consultation will take place later this year, and new laws could be in place by the spring. If ratified, and applied in international trade agreements, it would mean products such as Islay whisky would enjoy the same protection under European trade law as Champagne, Parma ham, and Roquefort cheese.
The need for revised regulation in the area has long been called for by the Scotch Whisky Association. Mr Benn said: "This consultation exercise will take us another step closer to strengthening the UK legislation that the Scotch Whisky Association have been telling us they need to help them protect Scotch whisky in export markets.
The proposed regulations will define five different categories of Scotch whisky - single malt, single grain, blended, blended malt and blended grain. They also set out five geographical areas - Highland, Lowland, Speyside, Campbeltown and Islay - with whiskies only being allowed to be labelled as coming from these if they have been made entirely in the region.
In addition, the regulations will require all Scotch whisky to be wholly matured in Scotland and will prohibit the export of single malt Scotch whisky unless it has been bottled and labelled.
Des Browne, the Scottish Secretary, said: "This is another example of the UK government working in a reserved area to protect one of Scotland's most important exports.
The Scotch Whisky Association has welcomed the British Government's commitment. Essentially, a distilled spirit drink made in Scotland from cereals, water and yeast, the most popular type of Scotch whisky is blended - the product of as many as 50 individual malt and grain Scotch whiskies.
There are four other types: a single malt, which is stilled at a single distillery; single grain; blended malt, and blended grain. Scotch malt whisky is usually classified in one of five main categories - Highland, Lowland, Speyside, Islay or Campbeltown - according to the location of the distillery in which the spirit is made.
Unlike the Irish, rye or bourbon varieties, Scotch whisky is distilled and matured in Scotland. Irish distillers tend to favour three distillations rather than two, as generally used in Scotland for malt whiskies, and the range of cereals used by Irish distillers is wider.
Whisky has been distilled in Scotland for centuries. There is some evidence to show that the art of distilling could have been brought to the country by Christian missionaries, but it has never been proved that Highland farmers did not themselves discover how to distil spirits from their surplus barley.