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How can you tell whisky is Scottish? Canadian distiller drops ‘Scottish sounding’ names from whisky

The Scotch Whisky Association says the words "evoked" Scottish themes. Photo: Jason Hedges/DCT Media
The Scotch Whisky Association says the words "evoked" Scottish themes. Photo: Jason Hedges/DCT Media

A businessman who runs a drinks firm in Canada has agreed to drop “Scottish sounding” names from his products after being sued by whisky chiefs.

Graeme Macaloney, who makes whisky at a distillery in British Columbia, has reached an out-of-court settlement with the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) after it took legal action against him.

The trade body accused the producer of violating Scotch whisky’s geographical indication by using words that are associated with the country on its whiskies.

Did names make it sound like whisky was from Scotland?

They objected to the use of words such as Invernahaven, Glenloy and Invermallie on the distiller’s products and said they may make customers think they have been produced in Scotland.

Glasgow-born Mr Macaloney has now agreed to drop the names and change the name of his firm’s base from Macaloney’s Caledonian Distillery to Macaloney’s Island Distillery, marking its location on Vancouver Island.

He said: “We are delighted to announce that we have come to an agreement with the SWA. As a result, we will be rebranding our distillery and its associated tours and beer garden to Macaloney’s Island Distillery and Twa Dogs Brewery.”

Mr Macaloney added that he was pleased he could continue to use his surname for the business and celebrate the word “island.”

Scotch whisky is protected under geographical indications legislation, which prevents makers of non-Scotch products from using names which “evoke an association” with the protected region.

What is the whisky naming row about?

Speaking last year, Mr Macaloney, who moved to Canada more than 30 years ago, said he strongly disagreed with the SWA’s lawsuit.

He argued he had the right to use his own surname and said using the word “island” was fair as “Canada has as many, if not more, island distilleries than Scotland.”

He said: “We are proud to celebrate our heritage, including my Scottish and Irish ancestry and the story of my family.

“I firmly believe we have the right to do business in a way that celebrates both that history and our reputation as a leading Vancouver island craft distillery. We also celebrate this in our beers – branded as Twa Dogs after a Robert Burns poem.

“We do not, and never have used the GI ‘Scotch Whisky’ on our Canadian distilled products, and strongly disagree with their lawsuit’s assertion =hat our use of ‘Caledonian’, ‘Macaloney’, and other terms including ‘Glen’ ‘Inver’ and ‘island whisky’, are synonymous with Scotch Whisky.”

He also said “Caledonia” was important to the brand’s story because of its home in British Columbia, which was originally called New Caledonia by settlers in the early 1800s.

The legal dispute led him to delay plans to export his whiskies to Germany and other European countries.

The SWA filed the civil lawsuit in the British Columbia Supreme Court and were seeking court orders banning the distillery from using the brand names.

A spokesperson for the SWA said: “Macaloney Brewer and Distillers Ltd and the Scotch Whisky Association have resolved their dispute after reaching agreement on the re-labelling of Macaloney Brewer & Distillers’ Canadian whiskies.”

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