SWA Clarifications on EU Rulings

Here is an update/clarification from the SWA’s David Williamson in regard to my recent New EU Whisky Law – as well as an answer to a question I had asked.

Kevin

Further to our talk earlier this week, a provisional version of the new European Spirit Drinks Regulation, adopted by the European Parliament on Tuesday, can be found at:

http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?type=TA&reference=P6-TA-2007-0259&language=EN&ring=A6-2007-0035

The
EU definition of ‘whisk(e)y’ is in Annex II.  The Regulation is
expected to be formally endorsed by EU Member States after the summer
recess and will enter into force shortly thereafter (when the final
text is officially published by the EU).

Separately,
the existing entry on the blog site on this subject seems to suggest
that the EU Regulation ‘approves’ the industry’s proposals for new
Scotch Whisky legislation (on definition and presentation) in the UK. 

Rather,
the SWA is in discussions with UK government about the industry’s
package of proposals and how best to introduce the domestic legislation
that will implement them.  Once that domestic legislation is passed,
there is an opportunity to take things forward at EU level.  Under the
new EU Regulation, there is a facility for individual Member States,
such as the UK, to register their national rules on spirit drinks with
geographical indications at EU level, and to have the rules enforced
across the rest of the EU.   

I hope this is helpful.

David Williamson
Public Affairs Manager
Government & Consumer Affairs
Scotch Whisky Association

I had also asked David:

"What is the SWA position on someone mixing Scotch Whisky (or any whisky which does/will meet the generally accepted definitions of whisky (i.e., grain; oak; maturation, etc.) with a drink that does not meet the definition (e.g., a molasses-based "whisky")."

If a Scotch Whisky, or any other whisky as defined under the EU Regulation, is mixed with any other spirit, e.g. a molasses-based spirit, then the final product cannot, under EU and UK
law, be described as ‘Scotch Whisky’ or ‘whisky’.

Under both current EU law and the new EU Regulation, such a product would have to be described as a ‘spirit drink‘.  (There are fairly complicated rules as to what else could appear on the label depending on the circumstances.) 

Both the current EU Regulation, and the new one, apply equally to spirits produced and sold in the EU, spirits imported into the EU, and spirits exported from the EU.  In other words, the new text makes no change in this regard.


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Classic Expressions at it again

Received my copies of Smuggling in the Highlands and Reminiscences of a Gauger from Classic Expressions today (June 19th).

Ian and Neil did a bang-up job – cloth-bound hard covers in maroon and blue respectively. Each edition is boxed and includes a CD which apparently contains an electronic version of the book. I say apparently because as much as I want to pop it in the old Mac, I plan to leave the CD in pristine condition. The cds will only be included with the first limited edition run of 300.

Since I signed up early as a founding member, I have number 8 of 300 of each book, with my name inscribed for eternity – at least I’ll leave my mark on something of value.

The next 3 republished works will be:

  • Truths About Whisky  (1878)
  • Notes on Alcohol in Brandy, Whisky and Rum (1904).  Sir Walter Gilbey
  •  The Alfred Barnard "Distillery Pamphlet" series (c1890) starting with Dalmore Distillery

Ian Buxton elucidates:

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New EU Whisky Law

Today (June 19th), The Scotch Whisky Association announced that the European Parliament voted and approved clearer EU rules on whisky production, which includes improved protection for Scotch Whisky

The approved regulations include a wide range of improvements to existing EU spirit drinks law, including a clearer legal definition of ‘whisky’, which will assist whisky distillers to tackle unfair and misleading practices overseas.

Nick Soper, the SWA’s European Affairs Director, commented:

Improved EU protection for the traditional way of making
Scotch Whisky is a significant step forward. It will be easier to
protect Scotch from unfair practices, supporting export success and the
jobs that depend on that continued success.

Throughout our campaign, the SWA has welcomed the support of the
European Commission, Scottish Executive, UK Government and MEPs.
Working together, we have secured an important result for Scottish
distillers and the highest level of protection for Scotch Whisky and
consumers.”

I spoke with David Williamson of the SWA early this morning, and we discussed the potential future impacts of the new regulations.

While the actual final verbiage has not been released, David was happy that the SWA/UK proposed rules were approved which will make it easier to ensure
national rules on Scotch whisky are enforced across the 27 EU Member
States. Reflecting traditional practice, the new law, for example, makes it explicit that "whisky" cannot be flavoured or sweetened – this does not prevent the continued production of whisky liqueurs – it simply means that they can not be presented as "whisky" without a qualifier.

I asked David about legal and regulatory specifics in regards to labeling when a Scotch Whisky is theoretically mixed with an alcohol that may not meet the EU definition of whisky. David promised to get back to me on this. . . I’ll follow up with the SWA response once I receive it.

Drinking. But not necessarily Scotch.

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these compilation posts.

This one is about some of the best General Liquor sites. Most of these are by amateur mixologists and professional bartenders. They are witty; have great information; and cover a variety of alcohol beverages.

You only drink Scotch?

Really?

Get a life.

These are the ones I read regularly. I know there are millions more. Some I’ve never been to; some I’ve never heard of; some just didn’t capture my attention. Sorry if you aren’t on this list…


Jeffrey Morgenthaler

One of the best sites for outspoken commentary about bar-tending stupidity – as well as a great resource for sharpening your bar-tending skills. In addition this is one of the most attractive Blog sites out there…

Cocktails with Camper English

Camper is what we refer to as "a real writer". All over the place but funny and interesting. For extra non-alcohol credit, visit his "Hate Blog"

Days That End in Y

All roads lead to "Days". Good site with lots of good drinking info. But Damn, Mike . . . hire a freaking designer.

The Art of Drink

Unlike most Americans, I actually like Canadians. And though I’ve never met him, Darcy O’Neil is one of those Canadians I’d like. Serious about his craft, Darcy brings a seriousness to his site. Good stuff.

Martini Groove

Rick Dobbs covers the world of drinks from a drinker’s perspective. Great variety of topics. Good stuff. (Formerly known as Martini-Lounge)

Liquor Snob

This is where I go to stay up with the latest releases and coolest drinking gear. Funny, Sarcastic, witty and I do the occasional guest stint there.

Of course I’ve talked about the wine Blogs I frequent: Dr. Vino & Basic Juice.

I don’t read any Beer Blogs. Like the growing number of micro-brewery brands, with witty names and approaching double digit alcohol content, they are like cockroaches. But I do look for articles from Stephen Beaumont and Lew Bryson.


I really think the better non-professional drinks writers need to join forces; get together; and create a single on-line presence – the ultimate resource for the alcohol loving web-surfer.

Have more suggestions from established sites? Leave them in the comments . . . but please, no self promotion…I’ll zap it.

Brandy Library – New York

This week, I’ll revisit some of the Whisky bar reviews I’ve done.


Mom, I’ll be at the library

(originally published February 20, 2006)

On my last trip to New York, I asked several industry guys about the
best whisky bars in the city. A number of destinations were offered up
for my consideration – but the one mentioned most often was the Brandy
Library.

If I were to imagine the perfect upscale lounge, Tribeca-based
Brandy Library would be it. The place oozes suave ambiance – the deep
woods, soft lighting, and rich leather made me feel under-dressed, yet
strangely at home.

But while the decor is nice, for the Scotch lover the draw is the
impressive selection. The Scotch collection at the Library numbers
somewhere around 270 different labels – second only to the selection of
over 290 brandies. I counted over 235 single malt expressions on the
menu. Nice.

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Delilah’s – Chicago

This week, I’ll revisit some of the Whisky bar reviews I’ve done.


Whisky Week: Not your Daddy’s Whisky Bar

(originally published March 24, 2006)

Chicago. February. Delilah’s.

The Cashed Johnnies are on the small stage belting out a
speed-freak, rock-a-billy version of Johnny Cash’s “Cocaine Blues”.
Mike Miller, the owner, has just put a glass of Scotch in front of me -
one that I can’t identify.

It’s a Wednesday night, but the place is packed with an interesting
selection of hipsters, rockers, mods, punks, Bettie Page look-a-likes,
and members of various other counter-culture sub-groups. Most of them
are here to celebrate Johnny Cash’s birthday, listen to the band, and
take advantage of the $2 Pabst Blue Ribbon special.

I’m here to celebrate Johnny Cash’s birthday, listen to the band,
talk to Mike and bask in the glow of an incredible Scotch selection.

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Best of – Making fun of Advertisers

Here I made fun of a very expensive piece of marketing schwag produced by Bartle Bogle Hegarty for Diageo to promote Johnnie Walker Blue (which I lovingly refer to as Johnnie Blue) to the top .001% of wage earners.

I hear even the guys at Diageo (some of them at least) found this one amusing.

Originally Posted – December 29, 2005

Diageo Wastes More Money

I was recently given a copy of something called “The Blue Label Book” by an acquaintance of mine who is apparently on the Johnnie Walker “hit list”  - the book is being distributed to high-level executives, including Fortune 500 CEOs.

He wasn’t much interested in the book, but I’m lucky enough that when he thinks “Scotch” he thinks “Kevin” and forwarded it on to me.

It is a beautiful piece of work with a tri-fold blue linen cover and gold-edged pages. It has one of those built-in ribbon bookmarks generally reserved for bibles and great master-works. Yet, it is singularly uninteresting – whether to a Scotch aficionado like myself, or to a busy CIO of a Fortune 40 company, like the original recipient.

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Breaking News – Classic Expressions Shipping

Ian Buxton wrote to let me know that the Classic Expressions Founding Subscribers editions (nos. 1 – 75) will ship starting today, June 4th. Additional limited edition copies (nos. 76 – 300) will become available today as well.

Visit their site to see some of the new old books they are working on.

England's patron saint goes to America. Does good work there.

OK, OK. Enough with the Indian "whisky", politics and opinion.
Let’s move on to another type of opinion – my opinions of St. George Single Malt Whiskey.

Even before trying this American single malt, I already had a good taste in my mouth about this product, and that good taste was the taste of the fantastic Hangar One Vodka. Both spirits are produced by St. George Spirits, based in Alameda, California.

I’ll have to talk about Hangar One for a minute so you understand why my expectations were so high.

Hangar One "Straight Vodka" starts out life pretty much as a brandy – pot-distilled from viognier wine. Then they blend it with a column still produced wheat vodka. With a soft grapey-delicious nose, this is quite unlike any vodka you’ve likely tried. The addition of the viognier really does diminish the alcoholic edge one associates with neutral grain spirits. (And yes, I nose and taste vodka just like single malt – and try them at room temperature). I’m not sure if those subtle grape notes will hold up in a cocktail, but it made a fantastic wet martini.

St. George also makes Hangar One in several fruit-infused flavor variations – none of which I have had the pleasure of trying.

On to the single malt…

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