English Whisky back to the Middle-Ages?

A few early movers on the English whisky market are making a defensive movement, that stifles innovation. What they seek? A GI for English whisky. What that means? That English whisky will be a protected name. A distillery can only use it when they adhere to the rules stipulated by the so-called English Whisky Guild.

The proposed rules are sold as “innovative”, but are none of that. They are traditional, anti-innovation, and defensive in character. English whisky, the proposed GI states, must be made from English grain. Ok, whatever. But it must also be made via double distillation on copper stills. Last still can have plates, but straight potstills is what’s aimed for. Any type of wood can be used for aging, as long as it is stated on the bottle.

That’s not innovation, that’s back to the middle-ages! And it is totally self-serving by those that already entered the market place. Self-serving as in that it sets up a high entry barrier to others. It hands the playing field to those already there. And to the few that have deep enough pockets, and/or a lack of pride to not go for the best spirits possible, but to make variable quality whisky on old, outdated, toxic, and very expensive technology, instead.

I strongly oppose these kinds of market monopolization movements. Especially since in England there is no tradition of whisky making whatsoever. So what are they protecting? What “tradition” if there is none? None. They are simply protecting their markets and future growth before other, more advanced and innovative craft distilleries can take it away from them.

But, hey, I am not English, so it is not my fight. But if you are an English distiller, it is your fight, and a fight definitely worth fighting for. If you don’t, soon you’ll find you will not even be able to use the word “whisky” (without “English”) on your bottles. Their lawyers will fight that, I expect, pretty soon. Similar behavior to what we see from the SWA, basically.


Drs. H.E.J. (Odin) van Eijk – founder, owner, CEO of iStill –



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