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SWA comments on Compass Box ‘transparency’ battle

The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) said it is not the trade body’s place to “suggest that laws should be broken” but is “happy to have the discussion” regarding Compass Box’s transparency campaign.

David Frost SWA
David Frost, CEO of the SWA, said the trade body is “happy to have the discussion” with Compass Box regarding the brand’s transparency campaign

On Thursday, Compass Box launched a new campaign called Scotch Whisky Transparency urging changes to EU regulations, which forced the brand to remove the full recipes of two of its expressions from its website last year.

The SWA reiterated that it did not tell Compass Box to remove details about This is Not a Luxury Whisky and Flaming Heart – which included information on the distilleries involved, the casks used, the ages and the proportions contained in the final product – but highlighted the company did not comply with the law following a complaint from a brand owner.

In response to the Compass Box Scotch Whisky Transparency campaign, the SWA highlighted that its role is to “explain those rules” so producers stick to them and could not suggest going against them.

However, David Frost, chief executive of the SWA, said the body is “ready to work to encourage change to existing laws” and is open for discussions with Compass Box representatives.

“The rules around Scotch whisky are set by governments, at EU and UK level,” said Frost.

“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.

“We would of course be delighted if Compass Box were to want to join the SWA to bring its perspective more fully to bear on such discussions.”

The laws detailing what Scotch whisky producers can and cannot publish on bottles and marketing materials are EU laws, and as such neither the UK nor the SWA can deviate from them.

For change to come about, all 28 EU member states would have to be in agreement.

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