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Diageo documents propose changes to Scotch laws

Diageo has reportedly set up a working group to consider potential changes to the rules that govern how Scotch whisky is made.

Johnnie Walker owner Diageo believes innovation could “protect and secure the future success of the category”

The drinks giant – maker of Scotch brands Johnnie Walker, Bell’s and Lagavulin ­– has put forward suggestions in secret documents seen by The Wall Street Journal.

Among the suggestions is the creation of a new category of blended whisky, which could include flavoured or lower alcohol line extensions of its existing brands.

The document also suggests that Scotch whisky could be aged and finished in Tequila barrels.

However the suggestions were deemed to be an “overreach” by trade organisation the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA).

“Scotch is the most important category for Diageo and we have an unwavering commitment to the integrity, long-term success, history and tradition of the category,” a Diageo spokesperson said.

“As champions of Scotch, we are always looking at ways to innovate to both protect and secure the future success of the category. In doing so, we work with the Scotch Whisky Association on a range of ideas that seek to strike a balance between tradition and innovation, in a way that ensures consumers get the great products they want.

“We will never compromise on the quality and integrity of Scotch.”

A SWA spokesperson added: “Scotch whisky is a product renowned for its quality, craft and heritage. The regulations which govern the production of Scotch whisky are the solid foundation on which the industry’s success is built, generating over £4bn in exports to almost 200 market worldwide in 2016.

“The SWA regularly engages with our membership on a broad range of ideas to ensure that the category is well-placed to grow in an increasingly competitive global market place.”

Speaking to The Spirits Business last month, SWA chief Karen Betts said she sees “more flexibility” in how the regulations could be viewed than the SWA had previously “taken advantage of”.

Whisk(e)y blenders, including The Chapel Gate Irish Whiskey Company and Compass Box, have also called for changes to the regulations in order to increase transparency across the blended whisk(e)y market.

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