Court Bars German Distiller From Using Word Glen in Whisky
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Scotch Whisky Association Wins 9-Year Legal Battle as German Distillery is Ordered to Remove Word ‘Glen’ From Whisky Name

Glen

The German flag flys outside the Reichstag, the building which houses the Bundestag on Feb. 24, 2021, in Berlin, Germany. A German distillery was ordered to remove the word “glen” from the name of its whisky after a nine-year legal battle. (Photo by DAVID GANNON/AFP via Getty Images)

After a nine-year legal process, German distillery Waldhorn has been disallowed from calling its single malt whisky Glen Buchenbach.

Despite Waldhorn’s label saying that the whisky is a German product, the Scotch Whisky Association began the case in 2013. The SWA’s argument was that the use of the word “glen” may “mislead” consumers as to the “true origin of the whisky.”

In 2019, a Hamburg, Germany, court ruled that the distillery must change its whisky’s name. Waldhorn appealed the ruling. In the appeal, the distillery claimed surveys showed few consumers would make a direct connection between “glen” and scotch whisky.

On Jan. 20, the Scotch Whisky Association announced on its website that the appellate case had concluded. The result? The court upheld the original verdict, meaning the distillery must cease selling its whisky under the name Glen Buchenbach.

“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. 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,” said Alan Park, SWA director of legal affairs. “Our case against Glen Buchenbach presented clear and compelling evidence to the court that ‘Glen’ is strongly associated with Scotland and Scotch Whisky, and the only reason to use ‘Glen’ for a German whisky is because of its undoubted association with Scotch Whisky.”

A “glen” is a Scottish term for a valley. Scotch brands often include “glen” because their ingredients come from various glens. Glenmorangie, for example, refers to the Morangie Forest, while Glen Garioch got its name from the rich barley meadows surrounding the distillery.

Park added that the SWA is “pleased” with the ruling, presumably because it will serve as a precedent for any future cases of similar nature. The law has spoken: Glen means scotch and should not be used to refer to other whiskies.

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