The proposed amendments will restrict how the product is labelled and sold in the country, with a particular focus on protecting the geographical origin of the product. The rules have been set out by the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) following the adoption last month of new laws regarding production and labelling of spirits by the European parliament. According to the European Commission, the new regulations will safeguard the reputation of the bloc's spirit brands by taking into account both traditional production methods, and technological innovations where there is a link to improvements in quality. Interested parties have therefore until 25 March 2008 to submit their views on how Defra's new production rules for whisky will impact on their operations, a deadline which cannot come soon enough for trade body, the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA). SWA spokesperson David Williams told BeverageDaily.com that he believed the proposed amendments were "fundamental" to protecting both the quality and reputation of Scotch amidst increasing global demand for the product. "It is an exciting time for Scotch producers, particularly in markets like the US, India and Russia on the back of considerable investment by the industry in warehousing and distilling," he said. "We are glad the industries campaign for greater protection is recognized and hope the measures will be implemented as soon as possible." Defra's proposals, in their current form, will tighten labelling requirements on whisky, both in terms of geographic and cask origin, in a bid to build better consumer understanding of what exactly constitutes Scotch whisky. "Passing the regulations would offer producers a robust legal framework to prevent unfair competition by supplying consumers worldwide with vital information about the product and where it came from." With Scotch whisky increasingly being sought after, the changes could prove another important step in boosting profitability for producers. Williams added that although 2007 export figures were not available, the SWA was anticipating further growth on the back of record global sales for the product during the previous year. In 2006, Scotch whisky exports rose four per cent in value over the previous year to £2.5bn according to the SWA. The rise beat the previous annual sales record of £2.4bn in 1997, reflecting healthy optimism in the market. Consultation proposals The amendments, announced earlier this year, will require Scotch whisky to be classified under one of five definitions, which must be used on labelling. These definitions will be: Single Malt Scotch whisky, Single Grain Scotch whisky, Blended Scotch whisky, Blended Malt Scotch whisky and Blended Grain Scotch whisky. Five regional categories will also be initially allowed for use on labels including Highland, Lowland, Speyside, Campbeltown and Islay, with the possibility of additional protected regions added later. However, these labels will not be available for products that are not wholly made in their respective regions. This will also apply to labels and promotional material using a name linked to a specific distillery, if it is not produced at the relevant site. Scotch whisky must also be wholly matured in Scotland, with export strictly prohibited unless a product has first been bottled and labelled in the country. Exports in wooden casks would also be prohibited.