‘It doesn’t feel fair’: Island distillery owner has European imports halted due to legal threats from Scottish Whisky Assn.


With fewer than twenty employees, Graeme Macaloney’s small, Saanich-based distillery has big dreams.

“We plan to go global,” said Macaloney, founder of Macaloney’s Caledonian Brewery & Distillery.

Macaloney says the company launched five years ago with its name and branding receiving the stamp of approval from the Scottish Whisky Association.

However, as the company started to see critical and commercial success, Macaloney says the SWA approached him with a stern warning.

“We start winning awards and then we get a knock on the door saying, ‘hey, we’ve got some issues that you are trying to use too many Scottish names to fool Canadians into thinking your whisky is actually Scotch.'”

The Scottish Whisky Association filed a lawsuit last April saying the Victoria-based distillery’s branding and marketing were misleading the public. The SWA asked Macaloney to change several of the names of his products, including removing his own name from the label.

“We can’t use ‘Island’, even though we’re on Vancouver Island,” said Macaloney. “Because it all sounds too Scottish.”

The two parties have been negotiating ever since. Recently, however, the SWA threatened a lawsuit against the German distributor of Macaloney’s Whisky, resulting in a halt to all Macaloney imports in the country. The Island distillery owner says the deal could have been his company’s big break into the European market.

“Why would they bother with a micro-distillery like us, when these guys have a $7,000,000,000 industry,” said Macaloney, referring to the Scottish Whisky Association’s membership which includes some of the biggest names in Whisky.

In a response to their actions, the SWA told CHEK News:

“EU law protects Geographical Indications (GI) such as Scotch Whisky to a very high level, including preventing the use of names which evoke an association with the protected GI…The SWA will always take action to protect Scotch Whiskey from attempts to benefit unfairly from its reputation.”

In response, Macaloney has started a petition on his website that already has approximately 1,000 signatures, hoping public opinion can make a difference.

“So really our biggest defence is public relations,” said the Scottish-born Macaloney.

He’s also offered to make some changes to his brand in order to appease the SWA’s request.

“We want to find, I think, an amicable and reasonable win-win,” said Macaloney. “But at the moment, they’re saying everything has to go.”

Macaloney says, for now, his crowd-sourced company is financially sound. However, he’s aware that even in a losing battle, the SWA has demonstrated its willingness to fight for years.

“To be beaten up with punitive lawsuits, it doesn’t feel fair.”

Macaloney says he’s considering filing a trade complaint to the European Union.

Kevin CharachKevin Charach

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