NEW ZEALAND: NZ lobbied to turn water back to whisky

By David Robertson | 19 July 2000

When is a Scotch not a Scotch? When it is drunk in New Zealand.According to obscure rules, the Scots say a whisky has to be at least 40% alcohol, but different countries have their own requirements and down-under it is 37%.For years Kiwi bottlers have been able to water down the imported whisky because domestic rules allowed weaker shots. But food and drink authorities from Australia and New Zealand will meet later this month to change this anomaly. Australia had the same rule until 1995 but fell into line with what the whisky makers were demanding. Since then the Aussies have been lobbying for New Zealand to change, because under their bilateral trade agreements, lower alcohol content Kiwi bottles could still be imported. This meant that two bottles of the same whisky could be sitting next to each other on the shelf but with different alcohol strengths. The Australian and New Zealand Food Association will meet on July 28th to agree the new requirements. However, many of the big brands have already adapted. Bottles of White Horse, Chivas Regal and Bells are already at the 40% level. "To be called a Scottish whisky it has to come from Scotland obviously and it has to be at least 40%," says Thomas Chin, CEO of the NZ Distillers' Association. "But whisky fell into a clause in the rules and became 37% here and we are looking to harmonise with Australia and Scotland. Apart from some back stock all the big brands have now complied with this 40% ruling."David Robertson

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When is a Scotch not a Scotch? When it is drunk in New Zealand.According to obscure rules, the Scots say a whisky has to be at least 40% alcohol, but different countries have their own requirements and down-under it is 37%.For years Kiwi bottlers have been able to water down the imported whisky because domestic rules allowed weaker shots. But food and drink authorities from Australia and New Zealand will meet later this month to change this anomaly. Australia had the same rule until 1995 but fell into line with what the whisky makers were demanding. Since then the Aussies have been lobbying for New Zealand to change, because under their bilateral trade agreements, lower alcohol content Kiwi bottles could still be imported. This meant that two bottles of the same whisky could be sitting next to each other on the shelf but with different alcohol strengths. The Australian and New Zealand Food Association will meet on July 28th to agree the new requirements. However, many of the big brands have already adapted. Bottles of White Horse, Chivas Regal and Bells are already at the 40% level. "To be called a Scottish whisky it has to come from Scotland obviously and it has to be at least 40%," says Thomas Chin, CEO of the NZ Distillers' Association. "But whisky fell into a clause in the rules and became 37% here and we are looking to harmonise with Australia and Scotland. Apart from some back stock all the big brands have now complied with this 40% ruling."David Robertson

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