FURIOUS whisky chiefs have hit out against plans to limit the amount of alcohol sampled on distillery tours.
It comes after Moray Council chiefs announced plans to reduce the amount of whisky handed out as a dram from 25ml down to just 10ml.
Half of Scotland’s distilleries are based in the council area and thousands visit the region specifically to tour them.
The council said the move came after their calls for clarity on what size of measure should be supplied fell on deaf ears at national government level.
Measures dispensed at licensed premises are controlled by weights and measures legislation with a minimum 25ml for a dram currently handed out during taster sessions on distillery tours.
Wine-tasting tours already have special arrangements but nothing is currently in place for the whisky industry.
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But Brian Gibson, 56, the joint managing director of whisky merchants T.B. Watson in Dumfries, has expressed concern about the new limit becoming the industry standard.
The company runs an annual whisky festival and believes “common sense” needs to be applied by those offering tours rather than local government.
He said: “For a tasting, 10ml of whisky can be sufficient but it’s not what we do. When people come in for a tasting here we give them eight whiskies at 20ml.
“I think a lot of people who booked holidays and tours specifically to sample the romance and hear the history of the great distilleries will feel a bit let down by being left with the dregs for a tasting, especially once their anticipation had been built up.
“I wouldn’t like to see it rolled out as a standardised industry limit for sampling. A bit of common sense needs to be applied here.
“If you’re responsible with what you do and can police yourself in a safe environment then I don’t see the point in it, personally.
“I understand that there’s a lot of distilleries in Moray and they’re probably just trying to have some consistency across the board.
“But when you tour these wonderful places and get given a couple of teaspoons at the end of the tour then they’re bound to be disappointed.”
Rhona Gunn, Moray Council’s director of economic development, hopes the example set by her local authority is adopted across the country.
She said: “In Moray Speyside we have half the total number of distilleries that exist in Scotland, so it’s appropriate that we should be taking the lead on this.
“In consultation with Police Scotland the guidance says that where whisky is supplied in the context of a genuine whisky tasting event, and the marketing and other information provided to customers makes it clear that sample measures will be provided, then it is unlikely that the council’s trading standards service would take the view that full measures were required.
“Police Scotland will assess the need for a licence on a case-by-case basis with a pragmatic view being adopted where appropriate.
“This applies to any tours, tutored tastings and events where alcohol is dispensed as part of the overall package.”
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James Campbell, chairman of the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival, welcomed the plans, hoping they would advocate responsible drinking.
He said: “This guidance from Moray Council will greatly enhance the experience of visitors attending our events.
“We have campaigned for some time for our event providers to be allowed to serve smaller 10ml measures where it is deemed appropriate.
“This will make a significant difference for future years at events.
“Visitors are invited to sample six drams across three different categories and it is therefore eminently sensible for these drinks to be served in 10ml measures as opposed to the larger 25ml size.
“We hope that the pioneering view taken by Moray Council will be mirrored by local authorities across Scotland, with the support of the Scotch Whisky Association, to ensure that messages and actions on sensible drinking remain consistent and clear.”