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Legal Protection in the UK

Scotch Whisky Still
Protecting Scotch Whisky from unfair competition is therefore one of our top priorities. Strong legal protection forms the solid foundation on which the industry’s success is built.

There are strict legal provisions which govern how Scotch Whisky is made, marketed and exported. The SWA helps to enforce these rules across our global markets.

Scotch Whisky has been defined by statute in the United Kingdom since 1933.  The current definition is set out in the Scotch Whisky Regulations 2009 (“the UK Law”), which gives Scotch Whisky the best and most comprehensive protection that it has enjoyed to date.  It covers every aspect of the making, bottling, labelling and promotion of Scotch Whisky.

What is Scotch Whisky?

The basic definition of Scotch Whisky can be found in the UK Law.  In summary, Scotch Whisky is:

  • Made in Scotland from only cereals, water and yeast
  • Matured for a minimum of 3 years in oak casks
  • Bottled at a minimum strength of 40% abv
  • Distilled below 94.8% abv so that it retains the flavour and aroma derived from its raw materials
  • No flavouring or sweetening is permitted

Categories of Scotch Whisky

The UK law defines five categories of Scotch Whisky:

Guidance on Compliance

The UK Law also contains legal requirements which specify how Scotch Whisky should be labelled.  View the SWA’s guidance for producers and bottlers of Scotch Whisky here.

news & commentary

22 April 2024

SWA legal team toasts success in South Korea

In the first such case to use Scotch Whisky’s South Korean certification trade mark, which was granted in 2019, the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) has successfully stopped the sale of fake Scotch Whisky which misleads consumers and damages legitimate trade.

21 August 2023

Scotch Whisky Secures Trademark Protection in Hong Kong

Scotch Whisky now has trademark protection in Hong Kong for the first time.

22 May 2023

SWA Legal Team Toasts WTR Awards Success as Best Not-for-Profit Organisation

The Scotch Whisky Association's Legal Affairs team has won its third World Trademark Review award in five years.

25 April 2022

Joint statement with Macaloney Brewer & Distillers Ltd

A joint statement with Macaloney Brewer & Distillers Ltd

20 January 2022

Decision over Glen Buchenbach upheld by appeal court

The SWA has won the legal case against the use of 'Glen' in Germany.

20 November 2020

Scotch Whisky is registered as a GI in Laos

Scotch Whisky has officially been registered as a Geographical Indication in Laos

05 August 2020

SWA releases new guidance on personal investment in Scotch Whisky casks

The SWA has published guidance for individuals looking to invest in Scotch Whisky casks.

31 May 2019

SWA legal team wins 'Team of the Year' award

The SWA has been recognised for its work to protect Scotch Whisky at an awards ceremony in Boston.

07 February 2019

SWA Comments on Glen Buchenbach case

Our case against Glen Buchenbach presented clear and compelling evidence to the court that 'Glen' is strongly associated with Scotland and Scotch Whisky, and the only reason to use 'Glen' for a German whisky is because of its undoubted association with Scotch Whisky.


19 June 2020

Thinking of investing in Scotch Whisky?

The SWA has produced guidance for consumers of what to consider when investing in a cask of Scotch Whisky.

31 January 2019

Scotch Whisky Regulations 2009: Guidance for Producers and Bottlers

The following guidance is aimed at assisting those producing and selling Scotch Whisky, and those designing labels, packaging and advertising, to comply with the 2009 Scotch Whisky Regulations.