In recent days Compass Box (a brand of unique blended Scotch Whiskies) has launched their Scotch Whisky Transparency Campaign (SWTC).
It’s a complicated issue to be sure but at the heart of it all is the fact that EU regulations prohibit Whisky makers from revealing the components of their blends most notably the age of the spirits utilized in the blend.
The current laws are quite simple regarding Whiskies with an age statement, stating that if an age statement is present on the packaging that the age must reflect the age of the youngest spirit in the blend. (Whiskies with an age statement such as 12 Years Old must include Whiskies no younger than 12 years but it is common practice that is also include older Whiskies in order to add complexity.) The SWTC does NOT seek to change this.
Regarding Whiskies with no age statement it is required that no information regarding the age of the Whiskies used in the blend be provided. The SWTC very much wishes to change this regulation allowing Whisky makers to reveal the various components with their respective ages. Further, and equally important, the SWTC is asking that this simply be an option and not a requirement.
How the Whole Transparency Issue Began
Last year Compass Box was in the midst of launching two products “This Is Not A Luxury Whisky” and an anniversary bottling of “Flaming Heart.” An unnamed member of the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) complained, the SWA advised Compass Box that it risked breaking the law. A letter was sent to Compass Box and the brand chose to steer clear of violating the law.
The incident did shine a light on the current EU regulations and has created quite a disturbance as many rightly ask, “why can’t a Whisky maker be completely transparent.”
The SWA is the proper lobbying organization that can push for change on behalf of its members and the industry as a whole. The SWA will soon be meeting with Compass Box to discuss the proposed changes. As Compass Box is not a member of the SWA their arguments may lack the necessary thunder. In my opinion, change will require the muscle of one or more of the big companies: Diageo, Pernod, or William Grant to side in favor of the transparency campaign. However there is a behemoth in Compass Box’s corner in the form of Bacardi who took a minority share in the company last year.
The campaign is just over a week old and Bruichladdich has publicly jumped on board. Not a surprise since Bruichladdich too produces innovative Whiskies. It will be interesting to see where this goes and if transparency in Whisky promotion will become a reality.
The BevX Take on Whisky Transparency
BevX is strongly in favor of anything initiative that gives greater transparency. The consumer is very curious as the industry has seen great changes in the past two decades. The old rules just don’t meet the needs of the modern industry. As the industry is clearly shifting to a greater number of No Age Statement (NAS) Whiskies the introduction of greater transparency is ideal for both brand and consumer. There is no denying that many spirits industry veterans and Whisky aficionados have looked at the NAS Whiskies with great skepticism. The cynical voice has made the direct charge that NAS Whiskies are simply a way for the big companies to sell young Whiskies at high prices. If true transparency were an option these NAS Whiskies could reveal their components and prove their assertions that these types of Whiskies are all about giving the blender greater freedom to create amazing Whiskies.
For more information on the SWTC please click here. If you are so inclined, you can sign the Scotch Whisky Transparency Campaign’s petition as I have.