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Issue 64 - Prepare for a surprise

Whisky Magazine Issue 64
June 2007


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Prepare for a surprise

The recent World Whiskies Conference had its share of twists and turns.Dave gives his take on some of them

It only took five minutes into Vijay Rekhi's speech for the ghost of old Karl to start whispering in my ear. You know, the old adage that history repeats itself first as tragedy the second as farce. I couldn't quite work out however if this occasion represented the first or second repetition. That there was a reoccurrence going on was not in doubt. A century ago, the Royal Commission which reported back on the ‘What Is Whisky' case was appointed. Its conclusions established the rules by which the Scotch industry has been governed ever since. Now the question ‘what is whisky?' is being asked again.

Is this tragic, or farcical?

The first challenge to our assumptions comes from Indian distillers, or to be precise from United Spirits, the firm which controls 59 per cent of the Indian spirits market. The Scotch industry, the Indian government and Indian distillers have been battling for years over two, subtly linked, issues. The first is Indian distillers' insistence on calling their spirit made from molasses ‘whisky'. The second is the punitive taxes which are imposed on all foreign spirits entering India which leaves even standard blends at a price which is beyond the pockets of most consumers. No surprise that Scotch only accounts for a measly 0.9 per cent of sales of ‘whisky' in India. This second spat has resulted in the EU now taking the Indian Government to the World Trade Organisation.

United Spirits is at the heart of both disputes. The thirdlargest spirits com...

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