Neil Boyd, global brand director of John Dewar & Sons, has proposed broadening the strict rules on Scotch whisky definitions so the industry can compete with more innovative categories such as vodka.
Speaking at the World Whiskies conference in Glasgow, Boyd argued that allowing producers to add herbs and other flavourings would enable them to compete more effectively with rival products. "Is it protecting anyone that we cannot experiment with natural ingredients, botanicals and natural flavour? Perhaps it is time to consider widening our rules," he said.
Any broader definition of whisky would have to be approved by the Scotch Whisky Association, which recently called for tighter controls based on geographical location of production.
Ian Bankier, Whisky Shop chairman, described efforts to relax the laws as a "complete dead duck" as the industry is unlikely to alter its recently-published definitions. He said one of the appealing features of whisky is "you can't put your finger on why it tastes as it does - as soon as you start to put things in people will say that's what's in it".
Richard Paterson, Whyte & Mackay master blender, said: "The integrity of Scotch whisky has to be the number one priority. It's important to keep it in its natural form, but it should be open to dialogue, to see in which direction we can improve, change or amend it. I don't want to see any abuse of Scotch whatsoever."