US distillery settles ‘Highland’ name dispute with Scotch Whisky Association

A whisk(e)y distillery in Virginia has settled a dispute with the Scotch Whisky Association over whether it can use the word ‘Highland’ on its bottle labels.

(Photo: Instagram: @vadistillery)

The SWA filed a complaint with the Delaware federal court in July, claiming that Virginia Distillery company was “passing off whiskey as Scotch” by including the word “Highland” on its bottle labels, and calling its spirt “whisky” rather than “whiskey”.

According to Virginia Distillery Company’s product descriptions, the bottles are a blend of Scotch whisky and whiskey “made on-site in Virginia”.

At the time, the SWA claimed that Virginia Distillery Company’s use of the word ‘Highland’ is unlawful as it is a term “reserved exclusively for Scotch whisky under US federal regulations”.

However, Virginia Distillery Co. and the SWA have now reached an “amicable resolution” to the dispute, according to a statement from the Scotch trade body.

The Virginia Distillery Company will cease using “Highland”, it said, after it sells the remaining stock. It will, however, still be able to label all products using “whisky” which is allowed under U.S. law.

Gareth Moore, Virginia Distillery Company’s CEO said the company is “happy to work with the Scotch Whisky Association to ensure that there is no chance of confusion about our products.”

“From the start, Virginia Distillery Company has been transparent about the nature of our products, which have been recognised for their quality, and we are committed to growing and championing the American Single Malt Whisky category.”

Lindesay Low, deputy director of legal affairs at the SWA, said: “We welcome Virginia Distillery Company’s willingness to work with us to protect the integrity of Scotch Whisky.

“With the company’s commitment to remove all references to ‘Highland’ and other Scottish indicators from their products over a phased period, we are pleased to cease the pending legal proceedings.

“We appreciate the prompt and positive attitude shown by the Virginia Distillery team in bringing the issue to resolution, removing the need for action in the courts to protect the intellectual property of Scotch Whisky”.

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