Friday, 26 February 2016

Scotch Whisky Transparency

Hey everyone. You may or may not have heard about it but a week ago Glasgow based blending company Compass Box have launched a campaign for more transparency in Scotch whisky. Those of you who are up to date of what’s happening in the world of whisky may wonder why I publish this article now when the campaign started last week and there have been several articles about it. That has different reasons. The first reason is that I am just amazingly lazy and as a student a natural born procrastinator J. The second and more serious reason is that I didn’t want that important topic to be hot for a moment with thousands of articles being written about it and a few days later everyone forgetting about it. The truth is that I started writing on this article just when the campaign started and waited until now to try and keep the topic hot. I think this is a great campaign that is worth supporting so I will explain the background to you.

It all started in October 2015 when Compass Box released two limited editions; Flaming Heart 5th edition and “This is not a luxury whisky”. The special thing about those two releases was that Compass Box decided to publish the whole recipe of the blends.

This action earned them a lot of compliments from all over the whisky world because it was full transparency which was really nice if you think about all those NAS (no age statement) whiskies that are released at the moment.

The joy didn’t last long however because a few weeks later the Scotch Whisky Association warned Compass Box that it was against EU regulations and therefore illegal to mention more than just the age of the youngest component in a whisky. Shortly after this warning Compass Box removed the age statements from the datasheets on their website what resulted in a shitstorm amongst whisky drinkers. It was hard to believe that it was forbidden to be honest with the customers and give them full disclosure of all components. I don’t want to name and shame the SWA or judge their actions as they acted because they were advised to by one of their members and they acted within the law. The problem here is the current regulation that only allows to mention the youngest component in a blend or vatting.
A week later the website with editors Dave Broom, Richard Woodard and Becky Paskins wrote an open letter to all members of the SWA. They asked them if they were willing to lobby for a change in regulations which would allow to have more transparency in Scotch whisky. Some of the members like Arran responded that they have faced similar problems in the past and that they would support it. Others didn’t answer at all or responded that they would follow the SWA’s line.

Compass Box long remained silent about all these developments. That was until last week when they launched their campaign. They are asking for support to lobby EU and UK regulators to change the current regulations. I have to say that I really like their approach because they don’t want it to be obligatory to mention the full recipe of a whisky. That would not be good because in a lot of cases it would be very complicated because some recipes change in order to keep consistency and in some cases the recipes are confidential. Compass Box rather propose an amendment to current regulations which allows to give full disclosure of a blend or vatting. I recommend you to watch this video where John Glaser explains the campaign.

A few days after the campaign had started the Bruichladdich distillery announced that they will support Compass Box and that they want to give full disclosure of their Classic Laddie line. You can find their statement here.
 Another company to openly support the campaign was “That Boutique-y Whisky Company” who said in their statement that they would really like to give full disclosure as they want to focus on the blend they want to make – putting the quality of the liquid before the marketability of the headline age statement.

I totally agree with that. I think the change in regulations would bring a huge benefit to the whisky world. In my honest opinion one huge problem nowadays is that people focus too much on the age statement. They just assume that older is better and in a lot of cases this may be true. But whisky is in most cases a blend of different components and sometimes it has benefits to put in a younger component to give the end result more power, just like Compass Box did with the Flaming Heart. With current regulations however, Compass Box would have two options. They could either label it as 7 year old or they could give no age statement at all. This example shows you that the proposed changes in regulations could be highly beneficial for the problem with NAS whiskies and everyone seems to have a problem with them right? (Maybe I will give you my opinion on NAS whisky as it seems to be a rite of passage for a blogger to write an article about it.)

I recommend that you read this interview with John Glaser and this article written by Richard Woodard and this article by Dave Broom from as they are way more knowledgeable than me and they have some very good points on this topic.

I hope that by writing this article I achieved to motivate some of you to sign up for the campaign and please don’t stop talking about this topic as it is really important. 

To end this article I want to quote my favourite line from That Boutique-y Whisky Company’s statement: “Lack of transparency in whisky labelling is straight up whack, yo!”

I couldn’t have put it better J

Slàinte everyone, U


  1. This topic has taken Twitter by storm, and of course I am sure the other internet social media sites are probably just as flooded as Twitter. I think rational folks are just scratching their heads at something that seems so obviously silly. If only rational folks and petition signers were enough to make a change! But we help move the ball along! U, I applaud you for taking the time to write on this topic and for bravely posting the recipe and sharing your opinions! Good use of a whisky blog! Keep up the good work!

    1. Thanks a lot but it didn't really take a lot of courage to post it. I think we should praise Compass Box and Bruichladdich instead. I really hope they get the SWA to lobby for new regulations.
      Cheers, U