The council that has more distilleries than anywhere else in Scotland is the first to issue guidance on size of measures drunk on whisky tastings and distillery tours.
Moray Council’s area includes the world renowned Speyside region, where 60 distilleries attract thousands of visitors every year.
Many of these offer tastings as part of a tour and the industry has long called for clarity on what size of measure should be supplied.
The measures dispensed at licensed premises are controlled by Weights and Measures legislation, with a minimum 25ml for a dram. Wine-tasting tours already have special arrangement, but nothing is in place for the whisky industry.
Distillery tours where tastings are part of the overall event frequently offer several different whiskies as part of the excursion. The doubt over whether full measures should be offered in these circumstances to comply with legislation has led to the new guidelines to be issued.
Wine-tasting tours already have this arrangement, but nothing is yet in place for the whisky industry.
Moray Council’s director of Economic Development, Infrastructure and Planning, Rhona Gunn, said that a pragmatic approach to tasting events has been adopted by Trading Standards officers in this area.
“In Moray Speyside we have half the total number of distilleries that exist in Scotland, so it’s appropriate that we should be taking the lead on this,” she said.
“In consultation with Police Scotland the guidance says that where whisky is supplied in the context of a genuine whisky tasting event, and the marketing and other information provided to customers makes it clear that sample measures will be provided, then it is unlikely that the Council’s Trading Standards service would take the view that full measures were required.
“Police Scotland will assess the need for a licence on a case-by-case basis with a pragmatic view being adopted where appropriate.
“This applies to any tours, tutored tastings and events where alcohol is dispensed as part of the overall package”.
The area is host to the annual Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival, which takes place from 28 April to 2 May, and attracts thousands of enthusiasts from across the globe attending nearly 180 different tasting and tour events over the five days. Organisers welcome the new guidelines.
James Campbell of the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival said: “This guidance from Moray Council will greatly enhance the experience of visitors attending our events.
“The Festival is a staunch advocate of responsible drinking, and we have campaigned for some time for our event providers to be allowed to serve smaller 10ml measures where it is deemed appropriate.
“This will make a significant difference for future years at events such as the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival Whisky Awards. Visitors are invited to sample six drams across three different categories and it is therefore eminently sensible for these drinks to be served in 10ml measures as opposed to the larger 25ml size.
“We hope that the pioneering view taken by Moray Council will be mirrored by local authorities across Scotland, with the support of the Scotch Whisky Association, to ensure that messages and actions on sensible drinking remain consistent and clear.”
The Scotch Whisky Association is in discussions with the UK’s National Measurement and Regulation Office about the introduction of consistent, national guidelines related to tasting events.
Neil Urquhart, Gordon & MacPhail’s Director of Logistics and Facilities, also welcomed the news.
“This is a really positive move by Moray Council,” he said.
“We have been discussing this issue with them as we all share the same aim to ensure the customer enjoys a top notch experience. The measures provided at tastings has always been a bit of a grey area for the industry – we need to work within the law while providing the range and variety of whiskies necessary to deliver a great experience for those attending.
“It’s fitting Moray Council is leading the way on this, given we are in the heart of whisky country and particularly relevant as we welcome thousands of visitors from across the world to the annual Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival.”