Don't Put the Word 'Glen' on a Whisky Bottle if It's Not Actually from Scotland, European Court Rules

After a nine-year legal battle, a German distillery is no longer allowed to use the word "Glen" in the name of its whisky.

Bottles of scotch whisky
Photo: Getty Images

We'll give it to the Scotch Whisky Association: they're nothing if not determined. According to The Times, the trade association has finally won its lengthy legal battle against Germany's Waldhorn Distillery, a nine-year court fight that hinged over whether the Germans could use the word "Glen" on their bottles of whisky.

Since this all started in 2013, the case was sent to the European Court of Justice, returned to a Hanseatic higher regional court, and the German distillery has finally exhausted its last appeal, which means that they have to change the labels on their Glen Buchenbach whisky and drop the G-word from their branding.

"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," Alan Park, the SWA's director of legal affairs told the outlet. "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."

Park added that the SWA's case — for all of these years — has hinged on the connection between the word Glen with Scotland and its Scotch. "The only reason to use 'Glen' for a German whisky is because of its undoubted association with Scotch whisky," he sniffed.

In 2018, The Herald explained that the Waldhorn Distillery named its whisky — yes, without the "e" — after the Buchenbachtal. The German word for valley is "tal," while Buchenbach is a Black Forest municipality that actually is located in a valley. The distillery's website says that the word Glen is Gaelic for valley too, so the name Glen Buchenbuch basically means 'Valley Buchenbach.' In addition, the label on each bottle identified it as "Swabian Single-Malt Whisky," with no mention of Scotland at all.

"We do not have any indication on our labels that our Whisky could be a Scotch," Jürgen Klotz of the Waldhorn Distillery said. "It is a shame for an organization like the SWA to point out one word and to fix the fame of Scotch whisky to this word."

The Herald also pointed out that the SWA had previously challenged a Canadian distillery's use of Glen in the name of its Glen Breton single malt, but a Canadian Federal Court ruled that the G-word did not "connote that the product must come from Scotland."

According to The Trademark Lawyer, Klotz and Waldhorn's attorneys previously mentioned the American, Australian, and Canadian distilleries that used the word "Glen" in the names of their single-malts, but he could not prove that any of them had been sold in the European Union. But by contrast, the SWA could prove that the "Glen"-bearing whiskys that were available in EU supermarkets were all exclusively from Scotland.

So Glen Buchenbach is now legally required to get a new name. On the bright side, some of that whisky might've been aging for nine years, while they sorted this whole label thing out.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles