By revealing all the ingredients in his Scotches, Compass Box's John Glaser continues to challenge old whisky laws.

By James Oliver Cury
Updated May 24, 2017
Credit: © Compass Box

Compass Box Scotch maker John Glaser just wants to tell the truth. He's happy to share the recipes behind each bottle, incuding the distilleries, the age of the single malts, the casks used, and the proportions of it all. He knows that authenticity and transparency matter; look what happened to the Mast Brothers. But when he released two new blended bottlings recently—Flaming Heart and This Is Not a Luxury Whisky—he found out there was a problem with unbridled honesty: It's illegal, according to the European Union and U.K. law.

Scotch makers may only claim one age statement. So if a blended bottle contains some 15-year-old single-malts, as well as some 8-year-olds, the producer must legally simplify the information wherever it is published—label, website, press release—and call it an 8-year-old, the youngest of the many possible constituent parts. Flaming Heart is a mix of 30-year-old Caol Ila whisky, 20-year-old Clynelish, 14-year-old Caol Ila whiskies, and a 7-year-old Highland malt aged in new French oak. So Glaser is compelled to promote the product as a 7-year-old—even though it is obviously filled with much more sophisticated components.

You can see the exact breakdown of ingredients—various single malts and grain whiskys—in his two new Scotches on the Compass Box website. Glaser made an easily digestible infographic to make it clear. And that's when the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) notified him that he was not following protocol. To date, no one has taken him to court, but all eyes are on Glaser as he goads the industry to update its rule book. Glaser upped the ante this week by launching the "Scotch Whisky Transparency Campaign." At the Compass Box website, fans can read Glaser's "beliefs," "definitions," and "proposed amendments to current regulations." He claims he hasn't yet found a Scotch maker who doesn't like the idea.

Credit: © Compass Box

Meantime, the SWA claims that even if they wanted to amend the law, they would have to rally a lot of legislators—and this is not a current priority for the organization. "The SWA has limited resources, and many calls on those resources," says Mangus Cormack, the SWA's director of legal affairs. Consumers can show their support by signing an online letter of support.