Scotch Whiskey Association Sues Virginia Distiller Over ‘Whisky v. Whiskey’

By Neat Pour Staff |

Most readers know that whiskey is from Ireland or the US; whereas whisky (no e) is from Scotland. However, an American distillery dared to call their product not just whisky but “Virginia-Highland Whisky” and this week a long-running dispute over the name landed in a federal court.

The Virginia Distillery Company juice is a blend of imported Scottish malts and locally distilled Virginia product. After years of arguing, the Sottish Whisky Association (SWA) filed against the distillery on Monday (7.08). 

According to the filling, the SWA “has an obligation to protect the unique geographic identity of whisky produced in Scotland, namely Scotch Whisky, and the industry that produces it from damage, and to protect the public from the confusion or deception that is likely to be caused by Defendant’s false and misleading labelling.”

The labelling that the SWA finds so egregious is the use of the terms “Whisky” (with specific mention made of the missing e) and “Highland” which the plaintiffs argue are indicators of Scottish origins—not Virginian origins.

Needless to say, the distillery doesn’t see it that way. “We stand behind our product and its labeling,” Virginia Distilling said in a statement. “Our independent distillery launched the Virginia-Highland Whisky series over three years ago. Our production process pays tribute to both old world and new world techniques while taking advantage of our location and the climate provided by Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Our label clearly indicates the source of our whisky, stating “Whisky from Scotland, Married with Virginia Whisky”, and we have always been upfront in descriptions to our customers.”

Those descriptions have been a point of contention between the two companies for over a year. “These proceedings were not taken lightly, but only after more than 12 months of attempts by the SWA to resolve this issue privately with the company in question,” read a statement from the SWA. “The Association would still welcome a resolution of the matter without the need for Federal Court involvement.”

However, the distiller seems intent on a legal solution. “We are confident this complaint will be resolved, and we will be responding through the court system…” according to prepared remarks from their spokesperson. “Our team invested countless hours and took the necessary and appropriate steps to design labeling for the series in conjunction with the federal TTB regulations and an additional inquiry from the Scotch Whisky Association.”

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