A Saanich whisky distillery is facing a lawsuit filed by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) and a Glasgow-based distillery alleging that the company’s branding is misleading to Canadian consumers.
On March 5, the plaintiffs, the SWA and Whyte and MacKay Ltd., registered notice of a civil claim against MacMhaol-onfhaidh (Macaloney) Brewers & Distillers Ltd. (MBD), the company that runs Macaloney’s Caledonian Distillery and Twa Dogs Brewery at 761 Enterprise Crescent.
In the B.C. Supreme Court suit, the plaintiffs object to the defendant’s “misleading branding and marketing of its whiskies” and the use of terms they claim may lead customers to think the Island-distilled whisky was made in Scotland. The SWA and Whyte and MacKay Ltd. go on to say they do not object to the distilling and bottling of single malt whisky in B.C., but ask for a series of court declarations and that all concerned branding materials be destroyed.
In the suit, the association noted that it frequently takes action against distilleries that attempt to pass off their whisky as Scotch whisky or use imagery and names that insinuate the spirits were made in Scotland. Thus, the plaintiffs object to MBD’s use of the terms Caledonian, Macaloney, Glenloy and Invermaillie, as they are of Scottish origin.
The SWA claims it contacted Graeme Macaloney, owner of MBD, by phone and email to discuss its concerns in August 2019 and again in January 2020 – at which time the association said it emphasized using brand names connected to Scotland would not be cancelled out by labelling the product as Canadian whisky.
The Saanich distillery recently nabbed the title for Canadian Best Single Malt at the 2021 World Whiskies Awards with its Glenloy whisky, but instead of revelling, the company’s focus is on the court challenge. In a response to the civil suit filed April 7, the company denies the accusations, stating “at no time have any of Macaloney’s Canadian spirits or whiskies been labelled as “scotch”, “scotch whisky” or as having been distilled in Scotland. MBD goes on to claim it has operated under the names “Macaloney’s” – the owner’s surname – and “Victoria Caledonian Distillery” since 2016 “with the knowledge and approval” of the SWA.
The company also notes that its whiskies are labelled as Canadian products and are sold in cartons featuring a map of Vancouver Island. MBD adds that it has complied with the association since opening and that its whiskies are in fact distilled by Scots as its team is comprised of Macaloney, master distiller Mike Nicolson and the late whisky consultant Jim Swan – all of whom were born in Scotland.
As of April 7, no court date had been set.