False whisky claims

A South African company has been found to have falsely portrayed its “whisky-flavoured” spirit aperitifs as being associated with Scotch whisky.

Whisky watchdog, the Scotch Whisky Association and leading manufacturer of the drink Chicas Brothers, bitterly complained to the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria that Milestone Beverage and its members misrepresented its Royal Douglas and King Arthur products.

This, the applicant said, was despite the fact that the two products bore no relation whatsoever to whisky, Scotland or the UK.

According to the applicants, this is a misrepresentation as the respondent is unlawfully competing in the whisky industry.

Another gripe was that the labels on the two products indicated that it was associated with whisky and contained alcohol strength of 43.5%.

The Scotch Whisky Association said the integrity of whisky was worth protecting.

Milestone Beverage said since the association turned to court it had made changes to its website’s title link “whisky” to make it clear that the two products were “whisky-flavoured spirit aperitifs” and not whisky itself.

But the whisky watchdog was still not happy and said the labelling and wording still portrayed it as whisky-flavoured drinks and consumers would thus associated it with whisky, while it was everything but the true thing.

The respondents insisted that its labels clearly distinguished it from whisky. It was agreed by the parties that the products were not whisky, but in fact vodka-based with flavours, which the respondent said were whisky flavours.

A scientist employed by the Scotch Whisky Research Institute, with a true nose for whisky, sniffed and tasted the offending products. Her conclusion was that it cannot be described as whisky flavoured.

Judge Elizabeth Kubushi found that the respondents attempted to disguise the sale and marketing of these two products as being related to the whisky industry. Thus, she said, the use of the name “whisky-flavoured aperitif” infringed on the territory of the real Scotch whisky industry.


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