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Vancouver Island whiskey producer embroiled in ‘Scottish words’ row with whiskey association

A whiskey maker from Vancouver Island in Canada is embroiled in a row with the Scottish Whiskey Association over its use of “Scottish-sounding” words.

Graeme Macaloney, who founded Macaloney’s Caledonian Distillery, was born in Scotland but lives in Canada, says his German importer Kirsch has been threatened with legal action by the Scottish Whiskey Association (SWA) to stop the company introducing the single malt from Macaloney in Germany.

It comes just months after a lawsuit was filed against him by the SWA seeking to stop Macaloney from using his and other Scottish-sounding names in the branding of his Canadian whiskey – and he claims he was told the words ‘glen’ and ‘island’ are included.

The distiller produces whiskey with a map of Vancouver Island on each bottle.

Scotch whiskey is protected by Geographical Indications (GI) legislation, which prevents manufacturers of non-Scottish products from using names that “suggest an association” with the protected region.

Mr. Macaloney, who moved to Canada more than 30 years ago, intended to distribute his whiskey in 25 countries around the world.

He now plans to file a trade complaint with the European Union, to prevent the SWA from being able to ban him from distributing his product in the region.

Mr Macaloney said he has been in dialogue with the SWA since the launch of his whiskey brand and has made many changes to his brand at their request.

He said: “There are Scottish and Irish diasporas all over the world who have the right to use their own name, but the SWA board just says ‘no’.

“I don’t think I broke their rules. I don’t use the word Scotch, I have a map of Vancouver Island on my bottle.

“But they say words like ‘Glen’ and even ‘island’ are Scottish.”

He pointed to international drinks giant Diageo, which has three seats on SWA’s board, which continues to market and sell its Indian whiskeys called “Bagpiper” and “McDowells”.

Mr Macaloney added: “A lot of people are very scared of SWA when they see what has happened to other companies and the tenacity they are showing.

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“I just want to get to a point where we can reach a compromise and a win-win situation in every way.

“I am a small craft producer and cannot spend millions of dollars on legal fees. However, we will do whatever is necessary to reverse the punitive actions of the SWA and are considering a trade complaint both in Germany and with the European Union.”

A SWA spokesman said no court date had been set against Macaloney’s and the organization was “offering dialogue” to resolve the issue outside of the court system.

The spokesperson said: “EU law protects GIs such as Scotch Whiskey to a very high level, including preventing the use of names which suggest an association with the protected GI.

“This was recently evidenced by a German Court of Appeal ruling that the use of ‘Glen’ as part of the brand name ‘Glen Buchenbach’ on German whiskey evoked Scotch whiskey and was not not allowed.

“The SWA will always take steps to protect Scotch Whiskey from attempts to take unfair advantage of its reputation.

“The SWA is always open to a resolution that protects Scotch whiskey and consumers without the need for further legal action.

“We have made this offer to Mr. Macaloney and continue to encourage him to engage directly with us to reach an agreement.”

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