Labelling of Spirits in the UK

Are there any requirements in relation to the labelling of alcoholic spirit drinks within the UK?

Currently in the UK there are legal requirements which exist in relation to the labelling of spirit drinks which are produced and sold within the UK.

These requirements are set down by the Spirit Drinks Regulations 2008 which apply the European Directive (EC) 110/2008 into UK law.

Who do these regulations apply to?

The regulations cover anyone who is involved in either the production and the selling of spirit drinks within the UK. In practice this can include individuals who are involved in the import and export of spirit drinks involved with the UK market and those companies within the UK who produce spirit drinks.

What is meant by the term spirit drinks?

Drinks which fall within the category of spirits are the following:

  • Whiskey
  • Gin
  • Vodka
  • Rum
  • Brandy
  • Tequila
  • Various liqueurs

To what kinds of drink do the regulations apply to?

A spirit drink is one which has 15% or above alcohol by volume. It therefore does not cover other alcoholic drinks such as beer and wine.

Drinks which fall within this category will fall within the scope of the regulations if the following things are factors are met:

  • They are produced and marketed within the European Union
  • They are sold within the European Union – this applies to spirits which are produced outside of the European Union
  • They are exported from the European Union

What have the regulations achieved?

The regulations provide new clarifications in relation to the labelling of certain spirits within the UK and in some cases provide a complete new definition for certain spirits.

As the UK regulations are put in place to implement the European Union rules more geographical protection has been afforded to UK spirits and other spirits within the European Union.

What has been put in place since 2009?

When the new sets of regulations which came into place in 2009 they brought with them the following changes:

  • What has to be listed on the label – for example the raw materials used in a drink such as vodka when it is made from agricultural origins are sugar cane, sugar beet or grapes must be mentioned on the label
  • Ethyl alcohol which is made out of non-agricultural methods is still banned under the Regulations
  • The regulations list a new definition for London Gin