Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

‘Scotch whisky’ really does have to be ‘Scotch whisky’ or you’ll get a free Go to Jail Card

Whisky bottles

Although I was not actually involved in the whisky business as such, when I did start working in industry, I found my knowledge of electronics landed me with what amounted to a ‘babysitting job’ in one of Glasgow’s bottling plants where some very expensive whisky (and other alcoholic drinks) was bottled. Although the plant had its own electricians and engineers, they never took on anyone with knowledge of electronics or programming, and a chance opportunity to fix some problems on the plants main line – which was intended to produce 140 completed bottles every minute during each 8-hour shift – led to me spending a major portion of my working day there for some years… until the whisky bubble burst a few years ago, and many whisky bottling plants closed, including the one where I used to spend my working ‘holiday’.

However, I keep on watching the news, since that burst (which did not really affect me, since I was only a contractor, and I just went and did something else) was still something of a shock and surprise, as it was always assumed the place was a safe job for those who worked there. But the reality was different, and I saw the pattern of three 8-hour shifts being cut, as was the number employed at the plant, and the number of lines that ran continuously, even when it was operating. One side effect was an effort to get the speed of that 140 bottle per minute line up to 160, or even 180, so that production could be maintained even though less shifts were being operated. These efforts were ill-advised, as the machine had many large rotating parts on the stations that applied the labels to the bottle, and the result of the higher rotational speed led to many of the arms around the circumference being unable to return to their resting positions once they had extended, and it was always breaking down as the extended arms smashed into the body of the machine when they did not retract quickly enough. At least that was mechanical, and not my problem, but such damage took hours to fix.

Although that plant is long gone, and the building it once occupied, which included a multi-story office block, became a small industrial estate, the whisky industry saw a distinct upturn  after a few years of stagnation, and has gone on to see an increase in popularity, to the extent that genuine Scotch whisky has become a premium product and valuable export for Scotland. So much so, that counterfeiters have found that faking the product, either through the liquid they bottle and sell as genuine Scotch whisky, or simply by labelling a foreign substance as Scottish whisky, has become a lucrative business. Universities have even developed analysers that can be used to sample whisky and determine if it is the genuine Scottish article, or just some foreign distillate, often produced in China.

Things got so bad that the Scotch whisky Associated secured greater legal protection for the real thing in 2010, when Chinese officials agreed to recognise the brand as whisky produced in Scotland. It meant it could only be sold in China according to UK rules.

Since then, a number of convictions for misuse of individual company trademarks in China have followed, but now we have a report of the first prosecution for using the term Scotch whisky:

A wholesaler has become the first person in China to be convicted of misusing the term “Scotch whisky”, according to the industry’s trade body.

Li Cuihong, from western China, was sentenced to four years in prison and fined £50,000 for selling fake goods.

Some were labelled as Scotch whisky when actually they were Chinese spirits containing artificial flavouring.

The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) described the decision as a “major success” for its legal protection work.

SWA said lawyers told the judge that, if the fake spirits were sold, they would “cause enormous damage to the trademark owners and consumers”.

They also drew the judge’s attention to the fact the defendant had served a prison sentence as a result of a previous conviction for selling illegal spirits.

Lindesay Low, SWA legal adviser responsible for China, said: “China is a growing market for Scotch whisky.

“Unfortunately, its popularity also makes the production and sale of fake Scotch whisky a lucrative pursuit.

“The Chinese authorities are very supportive in the fight against fakes and this case shows they are willing to crack down on those involved.”

Via Chinese court jails fake Scotch whisky seller

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February 10, 2013 - Posted by | Civilian | , , , , ,

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