The Virginia Distillery Company is under fire from the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) for “passing off whisky as Scotch,” according to a complaint filed by the SWA in Delaware federal court on Monday.
The SWA claims the Lovingston, VA-based distillery’s use of the word “Highland,” a term “reserved exclusively for Scotch whisky under U.S. federal regulations,” is unlawful. It is seeking a court order instructing Virginia Distillery to drop the “Highland” term from its labels.
The labels in question include the “Virginia-Highland Whisky” series, in which “[t]he spelling of ‘whisky’ – as opposed to ‘whiskey’ – and prominent use of ‘Highland’ falsely indicate that the product is wholly from Scotland,” Law360 reports. The filing includes allegations of false advertising, unfair competition, and deceptive trade practices.
“Indeed, defendant’s labeling of its products intentionally misidentifies the true geographic origin of its products in an effort to trade on the good will and prestige associated with Scotch Whisky,” the SWA wrote in the complaint. “While the association respects the rights of independent distillers, it has an obligation to protect the unique geographic identity of whisky produced in Scotland, namely Scotch whisky, and the industry that produces it from damage.”
According to Virginia Distillery’s product descriptions, the bottles in question are a blend of Scotch whisky and whiskey “made on-site in Virginia.” So, yeah.
Update: Gareth Moore, CEO of Virginia Distillery Company, provided VinePair with the following statement: “We are confident this complaint will be resolved, and we will be responding through the court system. We stand behind our product and its labeling.”
“…Our label clearly indicates the source of our whisky, stating ‘Whisky from Scotland, Married with Virginia Whisky,’ and we have always been upfront in descriptions to our customers. Our team invested countless hours and took the necessary and appropriate steps to design labeling for the series in conjunction with the federal TTB regulations and an additional inquiry from the Scotch Whisky Association. We’ve always been extremely transparent about our production process – from our labeling to the product’s marketing […] We plan to continue our expansion of the Virginia-Highland Whisky series line across the U.S.”