Canadian whisky maker claims Scotch Whisky Association has threatened importer with legal action over ‘Scottish’ branding row

A Canadian distiller embroiled in a lawsuit with the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) over his use of "Scottish sounding names" on his products has warned the industry is "frightened" of the organisation.

Graeme Macaloney, founder of award-winning Macaloney’s Caledonian Distillery, says his German importer Kirsch has been threatened with a lawsuit by the SWA to prevent the firm from bringing Macaloney’s single malt into Germany – just months after a lawsuit was filed against him by the association.

The legal action aims to prevent Macaloney from using his name and other Scottish-sounding names in the branding of his Canadian whisky.

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Scotch whisky is protected under Geographical Indications (GI) legislation, which prevents makers of non-Scotch products from using names which “evoke an association” with the protected region.

Canadian whisky brand Macaloney's has come under fire from the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA).

Mr Macaloney, who was born in Scotland, but moved to Canada more than 30 years ago, had plans to distribute his whisky in 25 countries around the world. He is now considering making a trade complaint with the European Union, to prevent the SWA from being able to bar him from distributing his product in the region.

Mr Macaloney said he had been in dialogue with the SWA since he launched his whisky brand and had made numerous changes to his branding at their request.

He said: "There are Scots and Irish diaspora all over the world who have the right to use their own names, but the SWA’s council just says ‘no’. I don’t think I am in breach of their rules. I am not using 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 SWA governing council seats, which continues to market and sell its Indian whiskies called “Bagpiper” and “McDowells”.

Graeme Macaloney moved to Canada in the 1980s.

Mr Macaloney added: "A lot of people are quite frightened of the SWA when they see what has happened to other companies and the tenacity they have. I just want to get to a point where we can come to a compromise and a win-win situation all round. I’m a small craft producer and I can’t spend millions of dollars on legal fees.

"However, we will do whatever is necessary to reverse the SWA's punitive actions and are considering a trade complaint both in Germany and with the European Union."

A spokesperson for the SWA said no court date had been set against Macaloney’s and the organisation was “offering dialogue” to resolve the issue outwith the legal system.

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

“That was recently highlighted by a decision of the German appeal court that the use of ‘Glen’ as part of the brand name ‘Glen Buchenbach’ on German whisky evoked Scotch Whisky and was not permitted.

“The SWA will always take action to protect Scotch Whisky from attempts to benefit unfairly from its reputation.”

He added: “The SWA is always open to a resolution which protects Scotch Whisky and consumers without the need for additional legal action. We have made this offer to Mr Macaloney and continue to encourage him to engage with us directly to reach an agreement.”

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