Compass Box vs SWA

John Glaser
Is there such a thing as too much transparency?

According to the Scotch Whisky Association, which basically controls anything whisky related in Scotland including where birds are allowed to relieve themselves should they be flying over a whisky distillery, it is.

Because what has happened is that our friends over at Compass Box decided it would be a good idea to share with their consumers the exact composition of two of their latest blends, This Is Not A Luxury Whisky and The Flaming Heart 5th Edition. This was in a bid to be as transparent as possible about what makes up their artisan whiskies.

Their website essentially broke up the blend into various percentages of different whiskies used in order to give the most accurate picture to their consumers. Now this, apparently, is against SWA laws.

Magnus Cormack, SWA director of legal affairs, explained that under Regulation 12.3 of the Spirit Drinks Regulation No 110/2008, maturation period or age “may only be specified in the description, presentation or labelling of a spirit drink where it refers to the youngest alcoholic component”.

Which is basically to say that you are only allowed to mention the youngest whisky in the blend and not any others. This is also, apparently, an EU regulation repeated in the SWA rule book. And what is even more interesting is that an unidentified member of the SWA filed a complaint against Compass Box through the SWA citing far too much information being given out by Compass Box.

So let me get this straight. The rules state that it is illegal for companies to divulge in full transparency about a product that people are paying for. So, in essence, you are not supposed to tell me what is inside the whisky that I am, more often than not, paying top dollar for.

Well, fuck you.

Since Compass Box was forced to take the exact recipe off their site thanks to SWA and the unidentified complainant I would like to share the exact recipe of both the blends with you.

Flaming Heart 5th Edition
Here’s what Compass Box can no longer tell you, their customers: the 27.1% Caol ila is 30 YO whisky. The 24.1% Clynelish is 20 YO whisky. The 10.3% Highland malt is 7 YO blended malt whisky made up of whisky from Clynelish, Teaninich and Dailuiane; this whisky was finished in very active hybrid casks made up partially of French oak. Finally, the remaining 38.5% of Caol ila is 14 YO whisky.

FlamingHeart Recips

This Is Not A Luxury Whisky
The 79% Glen Ord is 19 YO. The 10.1% Strathclyde is 40 YO. The 6.9% Girvan is 40 YO. The 4% of Caol ila is 30 YO.

ThisIsNotALuxuryWhisky Recipe

So there it is. Now you, the customer knows.

Well done John Glaser & Compass Box for doing what is right. Shame on you SWA for acting like a bitch.


5 thoughts on “Compass Box vs SWA

  1. Not a luxury whisky and not a big company… I think it’s good that companies can promote by only listing the youngest whisky but not in this case. I heard that Magnus Cormack of SWA said ANOTHER BRAND OWNER complained so Compass Box was warned that their promotion was illegal. CB is subject to compliance audits from UK revenue and customs so SWA is not being a jerk here; they are just doing their job in terms of compliance. HMRC could have taken action but did not. Glaser has said that the industry should look at changing the law but I think it will only benefit the big boys. And changing the law would be so hard since the requirement is part of both european and UK law. Unanimous approval from all 28 nations would be needed 🙂 Haha shit.

    The idea of banning anything but youngest ages dates back 30 years. The initial push came from Chvias Bros. exec james espey who made Johnnie Walker Blue label which was called Johnnie Walker OLDEST and the genesis of the law was this: JW blue was a tasty 15 year old whisky that took off all over the world. When Espey became president of royal salute, a 21 yo, was the chief of the fleet. Espey found out that there was a dude from United Distillery who was going to taiwan night clubs selling JW as being 60 years of age. That was ethically and morally wrong and pissed lots of people off, so Chivas pushed and had the law changed. Maybe it’s time to change the law in a way to allow such detailed promotion and transparency. This type of promotion doesn’t seem to be against the spirit of the law or the context in which it came about. Great post!

    • Well, hello there! Obviously you know about this subject more than I do. While I respect the fact that it’s good that the youngest age of a whisky is what should be on the label I don’t know why it’s illegal to mention every single component of a blended whisky. That’s actually what I’m against.

      Good to hear from you 🙂

      • This is really about consumer protection (Lay consumer protection). Every consumer is not as savvy and educated as you are. I can see how some and even some sketchy sales persons will use this transparency to confuse or deceive. I am with you though….. meh

      • Right: The idea is to prevent a whisky being marketed as made from “40-YEAR-OLD WHISKY!!!” when that’s only part of the recipe. So yeah—good intent, but it needs some flexibility for those who want to give full & fair disclosure.

        BTW, Compass Box is milking this for all its worth. I suppose I would too, but let’s not put them on a pedestal for chasing a bunch of free publicity.

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