Compass Box launches whisky transparency campaign

Drinks: Whisky
Location: Scotland

Compass Box isn’t lying down when it comes to complaints that it has been breaking EU regulations. The blended-whisky specialist is doing the very opposite, in fact, launching a campaign opposing the regulations.

The trouble all started last year, when Compass Box was informed by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) that by revealing the specific components of a whisky, they were in violation of EU regulations. These state that no age is to be mentioned on the packaging or marketing materials for a whisky, unless it’s a single age – that of the youngest spirit in the blend.

The campaign calls for there to be an option for producers to provide ‘full disclosure’: ‘An amendment to the current regulations that would allow producers the freedom but not the obligation to provide complete, unbiased and clear information on every component whisky in their product – with or without a headline age statement outlining the age of the youngest spirit.’

The regulations were likely introduced to prevent producers from misleading consumers by using the age of small amounts of highly-aged products in their blends. As the SWA explained in a statement at the time: ‘It is possible to imagine a number of reasons why the EU legislator adopted this rule 26 years ago, including the possibility that, given the different maturation practices across the various spirits sectors, advertising of the type in question might lead consumers to erroneous conclusions about the quality of certain types of spirit drink as against others.’

Inadvertently, the regulations also prevent producers from divulging the details of all of the whiskies in their blends.

Compass Box founder John Glaser explained that the proposed amends ‘would provide room for producers to provide total transparency if they chose to, without any risk of the consumer being misled’.

He further explained that the change wouldn’t be about creating any mandatory requirements, but rather the freedom for producers to communicate about the components of their blends.

David Frost, SWA chief executive, said: ‘The rules around Scotch whisky are set by governments, at EU and UK level. The SWA’s role is to explain those rules so producers can comply. Complying is a legal obligation and it’s not for us to suggest that laws should be broken.

‘Equally, where appropriate and our members want it, we are ready to work to encourage change to existing laws. Changes can’t happen overnight, though, and where the rules are set at EU level they need to be agreed with other member states. At the moment we are not hearing a consensus for change, but we are always happy to have the discussion.’

Compass Box is asking people to register their support on their Scotch Whisky Transparency Campaign page.

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Clinton Cawood

Clinton has been writing about drinks since landing in the UK in 2006 from his native South Africa. He's partial to all things agave, and is dependent on good coffee. He's still not a morning person. Follow him on @clintc.

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