Garnering a lot of discussion of late, the growing call to clarify what actually constitutes a Scottish gin, vodka or rum has hit the headlines once more this week.
Now, a group that was set up to promote Scotland’s position as a global centre of excellence in the creation of premium quality spirits, has rebranded itself and widened its remit in a bid to help create more transparency within the Scottish spirits industry.
The Scottish Craft Distillers Association, which was originally established in 2014, was launched in a bid to support its members through collaborative promotion and sharing of production solutions.
Now relaunched as the Scottish Distillers Association, the group have started a fresh campaign to recruit more Scottish-based distillers in this fast moving sector.
New members who want to join will be required to meet strict criteria to receive accreditation.
The rules set out by the association are designed to improve transparency in the production of Scottish spirits and aim at assisting the consumer in making better informed buying decisions, with those gaining membership receiving a “quality marque”.
Alan Wolstenholme, the chair of The Scottish Distillers Association, said that the move was in response to the “unprecedented boom” in the Scottish distilling sector which he believes brings opportunity, but also “a responsibility to set some essential guidelines for spirit production”.
He said: “In speaking to our members in the last few months we have debated several issues affecting the sector and we have now agreed clearly defined objectives centred around the promotion and protection of our Scottish spirits sector.
“The relaunch allows us to broaden our remit across the spectrum of Scottish distilling but most importantly we are pleased to have finalised our accreditation programme and the establishment of a quality marque. The accreditation will help consumers have confidence in the quality and craftmanship which has gone into the spirit.”
Any distiller in Scotland can apply to become accredited by the Scottish Distillers Association but only qualify by following a strict code of practice. This consists of five main commitments including new guidelines on the topic of place naming of Scottish spirits.
Mr Wolstenholme added: “The place naming of Scottish spirits, particularly gin, has been debated at length among our members. We are concerned about consumers being duped into buying a product named after a place in Scotland when in fact it has been made elsewhere, in some cases an entirely different country.
“This practice, which fortunately is still relatively rare in Scotland needs to be prevented from escalating any further. We are asking for distillers to make reasonable claims around the location where their products are made.
“We believe that this is essential to protect the incredible global reputation we have in Scotland for producing premium quality spirits. While whisky is already protected in law, we need to consider extending this into all our Scottish spirits to include gin, vodka, rum or even absinthe.”
Full details on accreditation can be found at www.distillers.scot, with rules including members owning and operating a still in Scotland as well as making reasonable claims in the place naming of spirits.
Representing 21 of the estimated 70 or so craft spirits distilleries in Scotland, the association also began working alongside Scotland Food and Drink eight months ago and will be promoting its new brand at this week’s Scottish Gin Awards on 20 September in Glasgow.