On one side of the aisle you have vodka makers from various countries arguing over exactly what is vodka. Mixed among them are people who believe Scotch does not necessarily have to come from Scotland. At the end of the day, you just might have a bunch of confused consumers. Welcome to the European Union Parliament.
With a vote this week, the EU Parliament could cause more than a third of vodka -- including some very popular brands in the United States -- to be recategorized as "white spirit" or "pure alcohol." Taking up a motion by a group of Nordic and Baltic countries, including Poland and Finland, a new proposed EU law says that vodka must be made from potatoes or grains.
A number of major brands, including Ciroc from France, use ingredients such as grapes, beets or citrus fruit. In the United Kingdom, significant amounts of vodka are distilled from molasses. If they lost the designation as vodka, these brands are also likely to drop in sales. Distillers in traditional vodka states think this would be just fine.
Currently, EU regulations define the distilling process for vodka, but not what raw ingredients must be fermented.
Scotch makers have been pulled into the fight through political maneuvering. They want protection against brands around the world using terms that suggest they are Scotch. The whiskey makers argue that like Cognac or Champagne, Scotch is as much about a place as it is ingredients or process. By tossing protection for Scotch distillers into the vodka proposal, the EU Parliament has clouded the potential outcome of the vote.