As the controversy continues to mount regarding Diageo's decision to change the make-up of its Cardhu brand, the company hit back yesterday saying it was "passionate about Scotland and Scotch whisky" and that without innovation the company's "economic and social performance would at best stand still."

In a statement the company said that its proposed plans for Cardhu whisky have been widely, if not always accurately, aired.

Diageo has been criticised by rivals as well as Scottish Members of Parliament, for a decision to change the make-up of Cardhu from a single malt to a mix of different single malts. Diageo has done this with only a minor change to the packaging of the brand, a move that will confuse consumers and hurt the malt category, those critics argue.

But Diageo said it was committed to preserving its brands' legacies. "One of the ways in which we are able to keep our great brands alive is through consumer-focused innovation and renovation. And this is no more or less true of our Scotch whisky brands, be they single malts, pure malts or blended whisky."

It continued: "While quality Scotch is proudly consumed in Scotland, the key to continued profitability of the industry lies in export, to the rest of the UK, to continental Europe, and beyond. More than 95% of our brands produced in Scotland, including Scotch whisky, is exported from Scotland, with 83% being sold outside the UK.

"At Cardhu distillery we have reached capacity of supply due to the unprecedented growth in demand, particularly in Spain which is the biggest market for Cardhu. We cannot meet existing demand and cannot hope to meet anticipated demand in the future. Accordingly we have changed Cardhu from asingle malt to a pure malt (a combination of specially selected malt whiskies from a handful of Speyside distilleries) which, like the original product, has a 12 year old age statement. Cardhu Pure Malt was launched in July this year in Spain, Greece, Portugal and France - the principal markets for this brand. We ceased bottling Cardhu single malt in March 2003."

Diageo said it was clearly important that it communicate the fact that there is a distinction between Cardhu Pure Malt and Cardhu single malt to the consumers in each market where Cardhu Pure Malt is introduced.

The company concluded: "We have many successful brands, yet without continual innovation and brand development, our economic and social performance would at best stand still. This is as true of our operations in Scotland as elsewhere."