Labelling of Spirits (UK)

What are the legal requirements for labelling alcoholic spirit drinks within the UK?

The legal requirements for the labelling of spirit drinks produced and sold within the UK are found in the Spirit Drinks Regulations 2008, which enforces the European Directive (EC) 110/2008 into UK law. These laws protect consumers against fraudulently labelled products.

Who do these regulations apply to?

The Regulations provide important clarification in relation to the labelling of certain spirits. They cover anyone 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 companies within the UK who produce spirit drinks.

What is meant by ‘spirit’ drinks?

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

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

What kinds of drink do the Regulations apply to?

The Regulations only apply to spirit drinks. A spirit drink is one which has at least 15% alcohol by volume. It therefore does not cover other alcoholic drinks such as beer and wine.

Spirit drinks within this category will be covered by the Regulations if the following factors are met:

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

What do the Regulations require?

Under the Regulations, certain things must be listed, including the raw materials used; an indication of the maturation period, ensuring that the labelling is given in one or more of the EU’s official languages. The Regulations also ban lead-based capsules from being used as closing devices. Ethyl alcohol, which is made out of non-agricultural methods, is banned under the Regulations.

An authorised officer who has power to enters premises can inspect the labels of spirit drinks. A person who breaches the statutory labelling requirements commits a criminal offence.