The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) has finished 12 months of consultation with its members by unveiling what it hopes are definitive proposals regarding the categorisation and labelling of Scotch whisky.

The proposals, reckoned to be the most extensive reworking of Scotch legislation for nearly a century, are designed to prevent any possibility of the consumer being misled, and are a response to the embarrassment of 'Cardhugate'.

In November 2003 Diageo attracted wide criticism within the industry when it decided to turn Cardhu from a single malt into a 'pure malt' (a blend of different malts), renaming it Cardow. Since nothing was written in law, the move was not actually illegal, but many worried that it could confuse consumers.

'Cardhu was definitely the catalyst to address the issue,' said Glen Barclay of the SWA, pointing out that Diageo, along with Allied Domecq, Whyte & Mackay, Glenmorangie, Edrington and Chivas have been key in putting together the new legislation.

Under the new proposals, there will be only five legal definitions for different styles of Scotch: Single Malt, Single Grain (both from a single distillery), Blended Scotch, Blended Malt and Blended Grain. Definitions such as 'pure malt' or 'vatted malt' will be outlawed, replaced with Blended Malt.

The proposed legislation also aims to outlaw the use of geographical descriptors for whiskies that are not from that area, such as 'Islay Cask Finish'. Though there will be exceptions made for existing brand names such as Highland Queen or Islay Mist, such brands would not get clearance were they launching today.

The proposals are currently before the Scottish Executive and the UK government and the SWA hopes they will become law by 2007, though there is likely to be a one-year derogation even then to allow the sell-through of old stock.