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Labeling for Scotch whisky at issue in lawsuit against Virginia Distillery; Company says label is 'upfront'

Federal Court

By Carrie Bradon | Jul 17, 2019


WILMINGTON, Del. (Legal Newsline) – The Scotch Whisky Association is suing a distillery for allegedly using misleading language to sell more products and is seeking a recall.

The Scotch Whisky Association filed a complaint on July 8 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware against The Virginia Distillery Co. LLC alleging false advertising, unfair competition and deceptive trade practices.

The plaintiff alleges that the defendant produces and sells a whiskey series known as Virginia-Highland Whisky, which the defendant describes as "Whisky from Scotland married with Virginia Whisky." The plaintiff alleges this labeling indicates to the public that the defendant's product contains whiskey that originates in Scotland when it does not.

The suit states that U.S. regulations preclude the use of the words "highland" or "scotch" on whiskey that is not wholly produced in Scotland, and the defendant's labeling of the products was improperly done so as to invoke consumers to purchase more items.

The company issued a response on its website that, in part, reads:

"Our independent distillery launched the Virginia-Highland Whisky series over three years ago. Our production process pays tribute to both old world and new world techniques while taking advantage of our location and the climate provided by Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Our label clearly indicates the source of our whisky, stating 'Whisky from Scotland, Married with Virginia Whisky,' and we have always been upfront in descriptions to our customers.

"Our team invested countless hours and took the necessary and appropriate steps to design labeling for the series in conjunction with the federal TTB regulations and an additional inquiry from the Scotch Whisky Association. We’ve always been extremely transparent about our production process – from our labeling to the product’s marketing."

The plaintiff is seeking that the defendant recall all non-Scotch whisky products that have been sold and feature "scotch" or "highland" on their labeling, fees, costs and other relief deemed fit. The plaintiff is represented by Jillian L. Burstein, Joshua W. Newman, Robert E. Browne and Benjamin P. Chapple of Reed Smith LLP in Chicago and Wilmington, Delaware.

U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware case number 1:19-CV-01264

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U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware