Sean Murphy: It's past time we time created a governing body for Scottish gin

We need a Scottish gin version of the Scotch Whisky Association to help protect and grow our industry, writes Sean Murphy

Published 2nd May 2017
Updated 21 st Sep 2023

There have been numerous arguments over the past few years about the role of the Scotch Whisky Association and the laws that define Scotland's Whisky Industry.

Some brands believe the laws are too strict and the legislature surrounding Scotland's national drink prevent innovation, allowing distilleries in other countries to gain an unfair advantage when it comes to the global market.

As a traditionalist, I am vehemently opposed to the changing or breaking of the rules defined in the Scotch Whisky Act - though I'm happy to see them bent or twisted a little - as I believe they are key to the lasting success both historically and in the future, of the Scotch whisky industry.

Perhaps then, it is time that Scotland's fledgling gin industry had the same protection with a governing body of its own?

Undoubtedly one of the biggest success stories in recent years, Scotch whisky's spiritual successor (ahem) has been growing massively over the past few years with now nearly forty or so producers making the juniper spirit up and down the country.

Some 70 per cent of the gin consumed in the UK is now made in Scotland and with more and more new distilleries and production sites being opened up every couple of months, it is an important time for the industry.

The definition of what constitutes Scottish gin is already hotly contested, with many points being raised including the origins of grain neutral spirit and more importantly, where the gin is distilled.

The Scottish Craft Distillers Association has done an incredible job up until now of helping to nurture smaller distilleries around the country, promote Scottish spirits and lobbying for duty reductions but its priorities lie with not only gin production but all spirits produced on a smaller scale.

To really protect the provenance of Scottish gin, and by extension the livelihoods and products of its distillers, there really should be a new body put in place to not only create the rules and accreditation for the industry but also to help protect against forgeries and and other such threats from elsewhere.

It would also help to have one group to promote and grow the brand around the world, particularly in this pre-Brexit era of political and economic uncertainty.

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The template is already in place, one only has to look at the success of the SWA or even the SCDA, but it must be done right and with great care, lest it damage this growing industry irrevocably.

Make the rules too strict and it risks inhibiting innovation, too loose and you dilute the product. We are already set to lose one set of laws with our exit from the EU, so it will be more important than ever to ensure we have a viable replacement in place, if not only in Scotland then across the UK.

Whatever the answer, the time to act is surely now, while the going is good?

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Driven by a passion for all things drinks-related, Sean writes for The Scotsman extensively on the subject. He can also sometimes be found behind the bar at the world famous Potstill bar in Glasgow where he continues to enhance his whisky knowledge built up over 10 years advising customers from all over the world on the wonders of our national drink. Recently, his first book was published. Dubbed Gin Galore, it explores Scotland's best gins and the stories behind those that make them.
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