European Court Rules That ‘Glen’ Can Only Be Used for Scotch Whisky

German distillery Waldhornbrennerei has been ordered to drop the title of ‘Glen’ from the label of its single malt whisky, Glen Buchenbach. The distillery was sued by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA), a trade body representing Scotch, on the implication that this label would “mislead [consumers] as to the true origin of the whisky.” and that only whiskys produced in Scotland may bear that geographical distinction.

“The SWA has consistently taken action in our global markets to prevent the use of Scottish indications of origin on whisky which is not Scotch whisky,” Alan Park, the SWA’s director of legal affairs, told the Times. “This is vital to protecting Scotland’s national drink and is a deterrent to those who seek to take advantage of the quality reputation of Scotch whisky and potentially mislead consumers.”

In 2019, the Hamburg regional court ruled that the distillery must change its name, due its products being produced outside of Scotland. The case was then disputed by the German company and sent to the Hanseatic higher regional court in the hopes it would be overturned; On Feb. 14, Waldhornbrennerei officially dropped its charges.

“We do not have any indication on our labels that our whisky could be a Scotch,” said Jürgen Klotz, a representative of the German distillery. “It is a shame for an organization like the SWA to point out one word and to fix the fame of Scotch whisky to this word.”

In an interview with the Herald in 2018, the brand claimed it named its whisky after the Buchenbachtal. Tal is the German word for valley, while Buchenbach refers to the Black Forest, which is located in a valley. Glen is Gaelic for valley, so the name Glen Buchenbach is technically geographically sound. There is no mention of Scotland whatsoever on the bottle, with the label reading “Swabian Single-Malt Whisky.”

However, the SWA contends that this case is based in many consumers’ instant connection between the word and Scottish whisky. “The only reason to use ‘Glen’ for a German whisky is because of its undoubted association with Scotch whisky,” said Park.

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