The Whole Scottish/Canadian Situation

I’ve basically stayed out of the debate over Glen Breton, because I think it’s silly and was a dumb fight for the SWA to pick.

My gut feel is that they had to see it through simply because they could not afford to appear to be picking on India over their use of Scottish sounding names, whilst letting the Canadians off with a free ride.

The biggest downside for the SWA is the potential for the Governments in countries where they are bringing action basically tell them to bugger off…which is what happened here. This reduces their moral high-ground and reduces their ability to pursue in other countries. These start to look like “nuisance suits”.

My friend Mark Reynier at Bruichladdich always has his own view on what is going on in the world of Whisky and, in this case draws the very keen connection that you can’t say you are attempting to save the world from confusion over names, while, at the same time creating additional confusion with the use of the unfortunate term “Blended Malt”. A term to which I have been a staunch opponent.

Pot Kettle Black
by Mark Reynier
The owner of The Glenora Distillery in Cape Breton is celebrating the end of a long legal battle with the Scotch Whisky Association.

Glenora Distillers International Ltd., won a major victory when the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear an appeal by the SWA that could have blocked the company’s trademark Glen Breton Rare. For nine years and through four levels of court challenges, the Scotch Whisky Association has fought to protect the Scottishness of he word “Glen”.

“We have no objection to the production of single malt whisky in Canada,” said the SWA’s David Williamson. “What is of concern, though, is any product that tries to take unfair advantage of Scotch whisky’s international reputation by adopting a Scottish-sounding name.”

Unsurprisingly the word “Glen” figures in an area colonised by Scots. Glenora, whose main product Glen Breton Rare single malt takes its name from its hometown of, er, Glenville, a small hamlet just south of um, Inverness – in, er, Nova Scotia.

Williamson said: “We’ve been working to protect Scotch whisky around the world for many, many years. There is evidence that the market was confused by [Glen Breton’s] trademark. Consumers thought they were buying a Scotch whisky, but they were really getting something else.” So really no different in principle to the SWA’s own blatantly deceptive title ‘Blended Malt’ where consumers are apparently not at all confused as to whether they are buying a Single malt or a Blended whisky.

The legal costs have hurt the small company (no doubt an intentional tactic) and more costs may be on the way as the SWA sourly seek to continue the affair: “We’ll be opposing applications to register the marque in any country where confusion is likely in the future.”

Of course Glenora Distillers International Ltd does not need to register its trademark in every country that it wishes to trade in. Perhaps the company’s owner should trademark his own name instead – now THAT would really cause consternation: Scotts Single Malt Whisky.

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Comments (5)

  1. Amen….we Canadians are glad the bullying SWA got told where to go….Nova Scotia ( New Scotland) has hundreds of Scottish names and Glen Breton is distilled in Cape Breton which has many placenames beginning with Glen..if the SWA had won this case they’d be going after Nova Scotia to change it’s name too…and yes, I have a bottle of Glen Breton but I have over a hundred single malts and anyone who prides themselves on their malt collection should have a Glen Breton for comparison tasting and as a novelty for their friends, like I do with my Glen Scotia…so three cheers for Glenora…and thanks for giving us Canadians a shot of pride…I’ll drink to that

  2. I suppose it makes sense for the SWA to test the limits, push the envelope, all that; but they should have thought about this 200 years ago or so, when Scots started to settle in other parts of the world, scattering Scottish place names about in their new homes. They maybe should also have been a little more original about their own distillery and brand naming, and not have everything be Glen-this and Glen-that. At least they have managed to vanquish the evil “e.”

    So, “silly and was a dumb fight for the SWA to pick.” Yeah, I’m with you on this one.

  3. Joe

    Wouldn’t each bottle of Glen Breton have to state that it is a product of Canada, meaning that anyone who actually reads the label (which everyone should) would be fully aware that they’re buying a Canadian product?

  4. Not to mention the large Maple Leaf on the label and the statement “CANADA’S ONLY”

  5. Pete

    Not that the SWA has much to worry about, it’s not all that great….from a Canadian no less. Also, Cape Bretton is full of Scots and tons of Scottish names of places and people.

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