Good name of whisky brought to court

Judgment is pending at the High Court in a case of significance to whisky distillers. Mr Justice Rattee has to decide when drink manufacturers are entitled to legally call their product 'whisky'.

The question has been raised because the Glen Kella distillery on the Isle of Man has been taken to court by the Scotch Whisky Association, Guiness-owned United Distillers and Allied Domecq Spirits and Wines.

In a case which saw the barrister's bar taking on the look of a public bar as spirit bottles were lined up with law books, the right of Glen Kella to call its product whisky is being challenged.

Simon Thorley QC argued that the Glen Kella White Manx Whiskey does not comply with the European regulations which lay down the legal requirements necessary for a product to be called whisky.

He also claimed that under UK law the Glen Kella Distillery, which is based in the tiny Isle of Man village of Sulby, and which produces around 30,000 bottles a year, mainly for export, was guilty of "passing off" its product as whisky when it was not.

The Scotch Whisky Association and the drink companies claim that Glen Kella buys in whisky which it then re-distills to make its "water white" product. They argue that this "character-forming" process which takes away the colour also takes away the right for the product to be called whisky.

Glen Kella managing director Andrew Dixon says that his firm has so far spent £200,000 on its fight to continue to make and sell its product.

He considers the only reason Glen Kella has been taken to court by the big league players in the industry is because ultimately they themselves want to make white whisky.