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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:

Scotch Whisky Definitions

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

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.

06 August 2018

Scotch Whisky granted certification trademark in South Africa

'Scotch Whisky' registered as a certification trademark in South Africa

05 March 2018

Protecting Scotch in the age of Brexit

The UK is preparing for a time of great change as we approach Brexit. Leaving the European Union will undoubtedly have a major impact on British industries and exporters, including Scotch Whisky.

28 February 2018

SWA secures GI protection for Scotch Whisky in New Zealand

Scotland's national drink has secured enhanced legal protection in New Zealand after the Scotch Whisky Association's application to register "Scotch Whisky" as a Geographical Indication (GI) was successful.

01 February 2018

10 year renewal of Scotch Whisky trademark in China announced during Prime Minister trade visit

The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) has renewed its collective trademarks 'SCOTCH WHISKY' and its translation '苏格兰威士忌' in China until November 2028. As a result, Scotch Whisky is officially protected from locally produced copies for a further 10 years.


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.