The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) has applied for geographical indication (GI) status in New Zealand to strengthen legal protection of scotch.

GI is a sign associated with quality and reputation used by wines and spirits. If the application is accepted by the New Zealand Intellectual Property Office, the name 'Scotch' could only be used for a whisky that has been authentically produced in Scotland, in accordance with UK law.

To be authentic 'Scotch' whisky, the drink must be made with raw materials such as water, cereals, and yeast, as well as be matured in Scotland for at least three years in oak casks. In this way, the GI scheme offers legal protection to domestic and international wines and spirits companies to help protect consumers against fake products.

At present, legal action can be taken if someone is selling fake scotch in New Zealand for breach of the Fair Trading Act. It is thought an added GI status would offer commercial value to the Scotch whisky industry.

Scotch Whisky Association senior legal counsel Lindesay Low said: "As Scotch whisky continues to grow in popularity, attempts are often made to try to take unfair advantage of its success, for example by trying to make and sell fakes.

"The GI scheme offers legal protection to domestic and international wines and spirits companies to help protect consumers against fake products."

"Recognition as a GI helps protect against such illegal activities. It's important that consumers have confidence in the provenance of what they are buying, which this recognition of Scotch as a 'geographical indication' will help to achieve.

"We were quick off the mark to file our application to register Scotch whisky as a GI in New Zealand as it offers such great protection to our product. We await the decision of the New Zealand authorities on our early application.

"We hope a free trade agreement between New Zealand and the UK will be signed following Brexit to further improve the status of Scotch whisky in the market."

According to the SWA, exports of Scotch whisky to New Zealand were up almost 18% last year to just under £6.3m.

Image: Scotch whisky sector has registered for a GI in New Zealand. Photo: courtesy of The Scotch Whisky Association.