Scottish whisky with a Welsh flavour

Two Scotch whisky makers claim their goodwill will be damaged by the activities of four Welsh companies, reports Roger Pearson

An action which is expected to be heard in the Chancery Division in June involves a bid by two major Scotch whisky producers to put a stop to the activities of Welsh Whisky producers.

Welsh Distillers, Dafydd Noel Gittins, MDT Wines and Spirits and MDT International are being sued by legendary Scottish whisky makers, Matthew Gloag and son and Chivas Brothers, whose products include Famous Grouse and Chivas Regal. They seek a legal ban on the so-called Welsh whisky.

In a recent judgment, Mr Justice Laddie revealed what was actually in the bottle whisky imported from Scotland and merely given a Welsh tag.

The bottles show a map of Wales, and bears the Welsh legend "Swn Y Mor" (sound of the sea). The labelling boasts that the amber liquid inside is "from the principality of Wales" and is a "subtle blend of whisky, herbs and Welsh heritage".

Mr Justice Laddie, in giving the go-ahead for the Scottish whisky makers' action to continue, refused to rule that their claim that Scotch was being passed off as Welsh had no hope of succeeding.

In court, two bottles of the Welsh product were on the lawyers' benches, one in a carton of the type usually used for expensive Scotch malts and called Prince of Wales.

The carton says it is 12 years old Welsh whisky. The defendants claimed that Gloag and Chivas had no reasonable grounds for taking action against them.

They argue that the Welsh whisky has nothing to do with Gloag or Chivas, but was obtained from another unnamed Scotch producer who did not object to the product being given the Welsh name. In these circumstances they say that Gloag and Chivas have no grounds to sue.

Judge Laddie said that they do not dispute that their product is Scotch and not made in Wales. But Gloag and Chivas claim that the Welsh whisky will deceive the public in a way which will cause them harm and damage their goodwill.

It is also claimed that the Welsh whisky breaches European law in that, although the product can be called whisky, it cannot legally carry the geographical designation "Welsh" because it misleads consumers.

Gloag and Chivas are represented by Tony Willoughby of Willoughbys and the defendant companies by TA Capron & Co of Grayes, Essex.