Proposals to tighten UK legislation regarding the definition of Scotch whisky have come under attack - from a Scotch distiller.

Earlier this week, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) said that it will consult later this year on the strengthening of UK law to "help support action against counterfeiting and passing off". Proposals include formal definition of the five Scotch categories, the introduction of new labelling rules, new protection for traditional regional names, and measures to tackle misleading practices.

The move was hailed by the Scotch Whisky Association as a step in the right direction, but the managing director of Bruichladdich Distillery claimed yesterday (10 October) that the new laws "may have more sinister implications".

Mark Reynier suggested that critics have claimed a 'fait accompli' by the SWA, which has proposed to define Scotch as 'single malt', 'blended whisky', 'blended malt', 'single grain', and 'blended grain'.

"The new term 'blended malt' appears to deliberately confuse two titles, the widely accepted 'blended whisky', and the highly misleading and illegal term 'pure malt'," Reynier said.

"We welcome most of the new proposals and look forward to the consultations promised, but are not holding our breath. I am pretty sceptical about the true relevance of the regions which owe little to taste, being in reality areas for nineteenth century bureaucratic administration of distilling licenses.

"They were invented when there were 22 distilleries on Islay, 32 in Campbeltown, and 30 in the Lowlands. Now there are eight, three and two respectively. Hardly representative.

"If the SWA were really intent on an appellation, the key qualitative influences of location of maturation and bottling ought to be included for authenticity."

When contacted by just-drinks, a spokesperson for the SWA dismissed the attack. "Sadly, Mr Reynier seems to be more concerned about self-promotion than protecting and promoting Scotch Whisky," the spokesperson said. "Over the last four years, there has been widespread consultation across the industry and beyond. Indeed, this has been the most definitive consideration of Scotch whisky since the 1909 Royal Commission.

"We are delighted that the UK Government is now consulting on new legislation. SWA members, as well as the vast majority of non-members, have supported these proposals as sensible, much needed measures that will help protect and promote Scotch Whisky worldwide."

The SWA hopes the new legislation will be in place by April next year, the spokesperson noted.