Tighter security measures have been introduced to help prevent fraud within the Scotch whisky industry.
The Spirit Drinks Verification Scheme, launched by MP Danny Alexander and the Scotch Whisky Association, will mean all businesses involved in the production process will have to register with UK Customs to ensure they comply fully with the rules on producing Scotch.
The checks will stretch to all businesses inside and out of Scotland including distilleries, maturation facilities, blending and bottling plants.
Scotch whisky is protected as a Geographical Indication (GI) meaning it can only be produced in Scotland.
The new measures will give whisky the same protection as Cognac and will go some way to reassuring consumers they are buying the genuine article.
David Frost, Scotch Whisky Association chief executive, said: “Geographical Indication status is of great commercial value to the Scotch Whisky industry. This is a step change in the protection of Scotch whisky and should be warmly welcomed.
“We fully support the introduction of the verification scheme by the UK Government. It will give even more protection to consumers of Scotch whisky.
“It will greatly improve the industry’s ability to stop the sale of adulterated Scotch whiskies bottles abroad.”
The total annual cost of the verification scheme, around £350,000, will be shared across the Scotch whisky industry in accordance with EU rules.
Rt Hon Danny Alexander MP, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, said: “I’m delighted that this scheme is now up and running, helping protect one of the UK’s most important and successful export industries.
“The verification scheme will make sure people who buy Scotch get what they pay for – the finest spirit in the world.
“The Scotch whisky industry is now worth around £4 billion to the Scottish economy and employs more than 10,000 people in Scotland.
“The booming Scotch whisky industry is a huge asset to Scotland and the UK which benefits from being part of the UK and European market.
“The UK Government is doing its bit today to step in and make sure cheap fakes don’t undermine this unique global export.”