Transparency In The Whisky Industry

This is a very hot topic right now.

Compass Box Whisky Company (blenders since 2000) has started a petition to get distillers and bottlers alike to reveal more about what is in their product. According to their whisky maker John Glaser, “Scotch whisky is one of the few products where it is prohibited by law to be fully open with consumers. This is an issue that… limits the ability of the producer to share pertinent information with their customers.” Compass Box – who have been releasing whiskies which state cask types, the distilleries involved and more importantly ages and proportions – are now locked in a battle with the Scotch Whisky Association. The SWA state that any bottle of whisky must only include a mention of the youngest spirit in the bottle. This gives little indication of how much time and effort has really gone into a whisky’s creation.

“We believe Scotch producers should have the freedom, but not the obligation, to disclose all of the components of a blend” says Glaser, “Consumers have the right to know.”

The situation is slowly but surely gaining momentum. Highland distillers Tomatin and the “Progressive Hebridean Distillers” Bruichladdich have come out in support of Compass Box. Bruichladdich has said that if customers want to know anything about their single malt The Classic Laddie they can do so via the website, but from April 2016 all of their bottles will have a unique code which consumers can use to track details more simply.

The response from the SWA is as follows: “The SWA did not tell Compass Box to remove the detailed recipes. Following a complaint from a brand owner, we contacted Compass Box to point out that the advertising did not comply with the law. As we raised the matter before the product was launched, we observed that there is therefore still time to correct the labeling and advertising in order to comply with the law. The action Compass Box took was up to them. We did however point out that compliance with the specifications for Scotch Whisky is now verified by HMRC.”

Understandably, Compass Box has made a bit of a fuss. We’re reminded of the age-old phrase “any publicity is good publicity” and wouldn’t be surprised if distillers such as themselves start seeing their stocks rise. Compass Box has opened many people’s eyes when it comes to transparency in the whisky industry. On the other hand, the SWA have openly said they are ready to work towards positive change – so this may not be such a bloody battle after all. No doubt it will be keenly discussed throughout the whisky world and become one of 2016’s hot topics, maybe even a defining year in whisky history. Thirst.Scot will be keeping our ears to the ground to bring you up to speed on this exciting event.


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