A leading Bacardi executive has called on the Scotch whisky industry to radically rethink its rules on the definitions of Scotch whisky, questioning whether the strict guidelines were hindering Scotch's efforts to compete with more innovative and less regulated categories such as vodka.

Speaking today (17 April) at the World Whiskies Conference in Glasgow, Neil Boyd, global brand director of Bacardi's Scotch brand John Dewar & Sons, warned that the industry must stand up to the challenges that face the standard blended category. In particular, he called for a debate on the widening of Scotch whisky's laws of definition to include a flavoured-Scotch category, that could sit alongside blended Scotch, single malt Scotch and blended malts.

He said that, in the face of declining consumption, those operating at the standard end of the business need to look at their record on innovation where little has occurred outside of new packaging.

"The importance of innovation has never been greater or more obvious than now for a mature category like Scotch whisky." Boyd said. While agreeing that tight regulation helped promote the image of the premium end of the market, he questioned whether it was handicapping standard brands.

"Are we policing ourselves to the consumers' advantage, the Scotch whisky industry's advantage or are we regulating to the advantage of the white spirits industry," he said.

Suggesting there was room for a flavoured category in Scotch, he added:  "Is it protecting anyone that we cannot experiment with natural ingredients, botanicals and natural flavours?" The strict rules on what constitutes a Scotch whisky currently allow the addition of none of these additives.

"Perhaps it is time to consider widening our rules," Boyd said, before adding that any new category could be strictly monitored to ensure all ingredients and processes were relevant to Scotch whisky.