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King William Fortified Wine forced to change sectarian packaging

The maker of King William Fortified Wine will have to change its packaging after industry watchdog The Portman Group upheld a complaint about the company stoking up sectarian tensions in Scotland.

From the Belcondie Facebook page.

The King William brand was launched in Glasgow and the west of Scotland last year. Manufactured by Belcondie, which also produces King William Gin, the product was marketed as a rival to Buckfast.

The packaging had several features that prompted accusations that the product had been designed to provoke Catholics.

As well as a large image of William of Orange, later King William III, riding into battle on the label, the bottle also features several orange motifs, a colour closely connected to militant Scottish and Irish Protestantism.

There was also the issue of the ABV being written as “16.90%”, which The Portman Group panel noted was an “unusual presentation of a drink’s ABV, as UK labelling legislation stipulated it should be presented to one decimal place”.

Giving the ABV to two decimal places was interpreted as a reference to the year 1690, when William of Orange’s Protestant forces defeated the army of deposed Catholic monarch James II at the Battle of the Boyne. Despite the battle taking place more than three centuries ago, it is still frequently mentioned in sectarian songs and chants. Belcondie argued that the 16.90% ABV was in fact a reference to the 1690 Distilling Act.

Nicola Williams, chair of the Independent Complaints Panel, said of the verdict: “The overall impression of a product should always be considered carefully and in this instance, it was a combination of elements that when considered together, created a clear link to sectarianism in a manner that could still be considered divisive and inflammatory today. I welcome the producer’s intention to make changes to the product packaging and encourage other producers to note how a combination of factors can lead to a breach of the code.”

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