SWA to challenge American company over 'alcohol free whisky' labelling

The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) has announced that it is set to challenge an American company over their use of the word 'whisky' in their alcohol free spirits range.

Published 10th Jan 2019
Updated 21 st Sep 2023

With the recent trend for health conscious drinks, lower alcohol offerings and alcohol free versions of popular brands, it was only a matter of time before someone tackled the spirits market.

Enter Arkay, a new product line that features drinks like vodka, rum, gin and Tequila, that may taste like the real deal, but are totally free of alcohol.

Perhaps most surprisingly of all, they have managed to create what they describe as "alcohol free" whisky.

However, the body that protects the name of Scottish whisky around the world, the Scotch Whisky Association has been alerted to the product and is now set to challenge the company behind it.

A spokesperson for the SWA said: “The product as labelled is illegal under EU law. By law, whisky must be at least 40% abv. It is not permissible to use the description whisky with other words such as 'alcohol free'.

“Any link to whisky could mislead consumers and damage the reputation of the whisky category. The SWA will conduct further investigations and take appropriate action as necessary.”

It follows another case in which the SWA took German single malt brand Glen Buchenbach to court over the fact that the name of their product was "misleading" and that the use of the word "Glen" in the title could lead people to think it was Scottish whisky.

Arkay founder Reynald Vito Grattagliano says he was inspired to produce the drinks range following an episode with his 22 year-old son, who upon returning home from a party where there was "ample imbibing", began to feel the unappealing after-effects.

“He suggested that someone should create a whisky that doesn’t leave you feeling so hung-over,” explains Grattagliano.

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Alcohol free whisky
An advert for the product. Picture: Arkay

The entrepreneur states that he then spent the next five years of his life and five million dollars "to make it happen".

Though Grattagliano doesn’t have a background in drinks development, he had previously made his fortune by creating designer perfumes for some of the top beauty & cosmetic companies known to the world.

After spending nearly two years attempting to devise an alcohol-free derivative that not only smelled, but tasted like whisky, Grattagliano sought the expertise from a team of scientists at a lab in Switzerland. This collaboration ultimately resulted in the creation of an entirely new molecule, the quintessential break-through by which Arkaybeverages were born.

The name derives from Grattagliano’s travels abroad. Apparently, during his stays in China, some people had trouble pronouncing his first name. Instead of saying “Reynald” their utterance was closer to “Arr-K”.

Using a patented technology the Arkay team call W.A.R.M., which helps produce a derivative of the capsaicin molecule, they say they are able to craft a beverage that offers the same atomic structure and flavor as whisky without the inebriating qualities that come from fermentation.

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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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