Court backs SWA in case against German whisky maker's use of the word 'Glen'

A German court has backed a complaint by the Scotch Whisky Association meaning that a distillery based near Stuttgart can no longer use the word "Glen" in the name of its whisky.

Published 8th Feb 2019
Updated 21 st Sep 2023

Ruling that the name, 'Glen Buchenbach',  is misleading to customers, the court decision means the distillery, which is based in Bergen in the south of the country, will now have to change the name of the offending whisky unless they lodge an appeal against the decision.

The case had been brought against the Waldhorn distillery by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA), which claimed that the use of the word ‘Glen’ in the German whisky's name could cause confusion among consumers and make them think they were buying Scotch whisky.

"With the same reasoning, the SWA could claim almost any Scottish-sounding term such as 'Mac' or 'Mary Stuart' for itself."  - Lawyer Sven Mühlberger

Alan Park, SWA director of legal affairs, said that the body was "pleased with the court’s decision" that the use of Glen on a German whisky is "misleading", he said: “The SWA has consistently taken action in our global markets to prevent the use of Scottish indications of origin on whisky which is not Scotch Whisky.

"This is vital to protecting Scotland’s national drink and is a deterrent to those who seek to take advantage of the quality reputation of Scotch Whisky and potentially mislead consumers.

Park stated that courts "across many jurisdictions" have ruled that names, such as “Highland” and “Glen”, and images - such as bagpipers - are "so strongly associated with Scotland and Scotch Whisky" that their use on whisky of another origin is "misleading".

He added: “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."

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The Swabian distillery told German news site The Local that they were disappointed by the result.

Speaking to the Local, lawyer Sven Mühlberger, said: "With the same reasoning, the SWA could claim almost any Scottish-sounding term such as 'Mac' or 'Mary Stuart' for itself."

The SWA lost a similar case in 2009 when they challenged a Canadian distillery over a whisky called ‘Glen Breton’. The Supreme Court of Canada supported a lower court decision that the name did not cause confusion, backing the small Nova Scotia distillery and ruling against the SWA's appeal.


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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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