The UK government is preparing to introduce legislation to tighten definitions of Scotch whisky.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) said today (7 October) that it will consult later this year on the strengthening of UK law to "help support action against counterfeiting and passing off". Secondary legislation should be ready for early next year, DEFRA said.

"This consultation exercise will take us another step closer to strengthening the UK legislation that the Scotch Whisky Association has been telling us it needs to help them protect Scotch whisky in export markets," said Hilary Benn, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

"The proposed legislation will make special provisions relating to Scotch whisky. The proposals will define tightly the descriptions applied to Scotch whisky. They will also tightly define its geographical provenance and ensure that if the product uses the name of a distillery then it must also come from that distillery."

Among the proposed regulations are the definition of five categories of Scotch - Single Malt Scotch Whisky, Single Grain Scotch Whisky, Blended Scotch Whisky, Blended Malt Scotch Whisky and Blended Grain Scotch Whisky - and will require these category names to be used. These five categories could be supplemented initially by one of five regional names - Highland, Lowland, Speyside, Campbeltown, Islay. Products would not be allowed to use protected regional names if they have not been wholly made in the region.