Bangalore, June 20 If the fight to get the Indian government to lower taxes on imported liquor was long drawn and hard, the new challenge to what the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) holds dear might turn out to be tougher.This time around, the UB Group Chairman, Mr Vijay Mallya's recent announcement that his company has developed an odourless, colourless `diet' whisky and an earlier suggestion that whisky should be spiced up with flavours to make it more acceptable to the youth has created a furore in SWA.Even though the UB Group has won a patent from the US for its diet whisky and vodka, it's manufacturing and marketing has been delayed because of `issues' with the European Union over classification.But the SWA is firm on its stand on what constitutes whisky. "The addition of flavourings, additives or any extracts would disentitle a product from being sold as `whisky' and any such products would have to be appropriately labelled to avoid consumer confusion," an SWA spokesperson told Business Line.The SWA has maintained that unless the UB Group, which last year acquired the Scotland-based Whyte & Mackay, conforms to the definition of whisky, it will not be able to gain membership to the association.The SWA spokesperson pointed out that one of the requirements on what constitutes whisky is that the spirit should retain the colour, aroma, and taste derived from the raw materials used in, and the method of, its production and maturation. The European Union requires `whisky' to be made from cereals and aged for a minimum of three years, at a strength of not less than 40 per cent volume. "All whisky produced or sold in the EU must be produced in line with that definition," the spokesperson said.He also said that Scotch Whisky is low in terms of calories compared with other alcoholic beverages, with a standard 25ml measure containing 55 calories, half that of white wine.
(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated June 21, 2008)