Happy Hour ! OAPI grants Scotch Whisky a GI status

wine-1427797Scotland would be in high spirits, quite literally after the recently accorded Geographical Indication (GI) status to Scotch Whisky. The much loved and prestigious spirit with an international reputation is now a recognized GI in the 17 member African Intellectual Property Organization (OAPI) which includes Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Equatorial Guinea, Ivory Coast, Gabon, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Republic of Congo, Senegal and Togo. It is the first spirit drink to be given a GI tag in OAPI. The Scotch Whisky Association, the body responsible for the application (SWA, erstwhile known as ‘The Wine & Spirit Brand Association’ started in 1912, changed its name to the Whisky Association in 1917) has been a proactive body striving to protect the authenticity and originality of Scotch Whiskey.

The term “whisky” is derived originally from the words in the Gaelic language “Uisge Beatha” or “Usquebaugh”, meaning ‘water of life’. Gaelic is the traditional language spoken in the Highlands of Scotland. The Gaelic description first evolved into “Uiskie” and then “Whisky”.[1] According to UK Scotch Whisky technical file in support of the Scotch whisky GI, “Scotch whisky means a whisky produced in Scotland that has been distilled in Scotland from water and malted barley to which only whole grains of other cereals may be added all of which have been processed at that distillery into a mash, converted into a fermentable substrate only by endogenous enzyme systems and fermented by the addition of yeast. It has to be distilled at an alcoholic strength by volume of less than 94.8%, its production that has been matured only in oak casks of a capacity not exceeding 700 litres, that has been matured only in Scotland for a period of not less than three years, maintains the color of plain caramel that has a minimum alcoholic strength by volume of 40%.”.[2] Between 2005 and 2014, Scotch exports to all OAPI countries increased by 275 per cent to £13.6m from just under £5m[3]. This breakthrough development will ramp up sales in the African region which is lauded as the fastest growing export market and is a timely boost for distillers looking to capitalize on whisky’s growing popularity in the region.

Scotch is now officially recognized in the laws of nearly 100 countries, including the whole of the European Union. This will not only safeguard Scotch Whisky from counterfeits or sub-standard products, while ensuring quality, but also prevent the use of place names as generic descriptions of products.


[1] The Origin of Scotch , available at <http://www.scotchwhiskyexperience.co.uk/scotch-whisky/whisky-history.php>

[2] Spirit Drinks Verification Scheme – technical guidance Scotch Whisky verification, available at <https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/380284/techincal-guidance.pdf>

[3] “African landmark for Scotch whisky”, The Herald < http://www6.lexisnexis.com/publisher/EndUser?Action=UserDisplayFullDocument&orgId=1746&topicId=100046847&docId=l:2445036957&Em=7&start=36>