Retailers have received a request to halt the sale of Cosa Nostra Scotch Whisky due to its perceived connection to "violent, aggressive, dangerous, and illegal" behavior. Packaged in a gun-shaped bottle reminiscent of a Thompson 'Tommy' gun, the whisky's design has drawn a direct correlation between the spirit and a potentially dangerous weapon.
The Portman Group's Independent Complaints Panel upheld a complaint against the product, resulting in the imposition of the severest sanction due to the producer's non-compliance. The panel emphasized that "Cosa Nostra" is a well-known entity within the Italian mafia.
Bartex Bartol, the producer behind the whisky, has a track record of bottling its spirits in gun-shaped containers. In 2014, the complaints panel criticized the company for its "Red Army Vodka," considering it wholly inappropriate, as reported by Beverage Daily.
Nicola Williams, Chair of the Portman Group's Independent Complaints Panel, expressed her disapproval of the producer's choice to promote firearms, stating, "I hope Bartex Bartol takes note that such products are completely unacceptable," according to The Spirits Business.
Gun violence has been on the rise in the UK, with two out of three police force divisions in England and Wales reporting an increase in gun-related crimes, as highlighted in a September article from The Guardian. In London, 29 out of 43 police force jurisdictions have witnessed a surge in gun crime, with eight areas experiencing more than a doubling of such incidents.
Given the increase in gun-related crimes across the UK, the panel expressed concerns that the packaging is likely to cause "serious and widespread offense," particularly in communities grappling with gun crime issues. Nicola Williams, Chair of the Independent Complaints Panel, criticized the alcohol producer for glorifying firearms and marketing such a product, stating that it violates the code set forth by the Portman Group.
This is not the first time the Portman Group has intervened in similar cases. In April of this year, a complaint against Engine Organic Gin was upheld for its claims of therapeutic qualities. Additionally, Mixpixie discontinued its Prescription Gin in November 2021 following a complaint over its medicine-inspired bottle. Similarly, vodka brand Jatt Life terminated its sponsorship of The Cannon Run in July 2022 due to a complaint regarding the lack of responsible drinking promotion during the driving event.
According to a report by the Portman Group, four out of five complaints about alcoholic marketing and packaging in 2022 revolved around their appeal to individuals under the age of 18. These incidents highlight the ongoing challenges faced by the alcohol industry to adhere to responsible marketing practices and address societal concerns surrounding their products.