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Diageo to rename McDowell’s after SWA pressure

Diageo has confirmed it is to rename its McDowell’s No.1 Indian whisky – the world’s second largest whisky brand – in markets outside of India following pressure from the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA).

Diageo is to rename its McDowells brand in markets outside of India, following pressure from the SWA
Diageo is to rename its McDowells brand in markets outside of India, following pressure from the SWA

The SWA claimed that the labels of both McDowell’s No.1 and fellow Diageo Indian whisky brand Bagpiper could mislead consumers into believing that the liquid is Scotch.

Both brands are produced by Diageo-controlled United Spirits, with the bulk of production sold in India. According to IWSR figures, 2.6% of McDowell’s No.1 and 0.3% of Bagpiper is sold abroad.

An SWA spokesperson said: “The SWA monitors carefully any use of Scottish names on spirit drinks that are not Scotch Whiskies in world markets. Following its take-over of USL, the SWA has had helpful and positive discussions with Diageo about the Bagpiper and McDowell’s brands, with agreement reached on those brands in markets outside India.

“In India, where these brands have been on sale for several decades, it is understood that McDowell’s and Bagpiper have a reputation locally as Indian brands. The situation is clearly different in markets outside India where the brands are not well known. Details of the agreement and transition arrangements remain confidential to the parties.”

Diageo had previously agreed to cease exports of Bagpiper from 1 January 2016.

“We have come to an agreement with the SWA in relation to Bagpiper and the labelling of McDowell’s in markets outside India,” A Diageo statement reads. “We will now be working through a transition period to implement the changes which will remove Scottish references.

“The precise timelines and detail of these changes have still to be worked through but we are pleased to have reached a solution that works for all parties.”

Diageo did not disclose what the new McDowell’s No.1 name would be.

McDowell’s No.1 is the second largest whisky brand in the world by volume, shifting 25.1 million nine-litre cases in 2014, according to Brand Champions data.

Bagpiper suffered an 18% volume decline in 2014 with case sales slipping to 9.5 million. However it still sold more whisky that any Scotch brand, with the exception of Johnnie Walker.

The agreement follows heightened SWA scrutiny of the Indian whisky market. In February 2016, the trade association announced it had been granted permanent injunctions against three whisky brands that falsely referenced ‘Scotch, ‘Scotch whisky’ and ‘Scotland’ on their labels.

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