Bad News For Scotch Fans?

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Good news for the American whiskey industry, but bad news for American whiskey fans: After Scotland's decision to repatriate convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali Al Megrahi, critics are building pressure on importers and consumers to mount a boycott on Scottish and British products, including Scotch whisky. Americans import about $610 million in Scotch annually.

According to Scotch manufacturers quoted in the Telegraph, the boycott has so far generated more light than heat--lots of press coverage but little impact on sales, though it's probably too early in the campaign to see anything definitive.

On the other hand, with the weakened economy, Scotch sales are already hurting vis-à-vis domestic whiskey products, so this latest turn doesn't help. (And, for what little it's worth, Slate reports that "Boycott Scotland" was the 42nd most frequent Google search last week.)

The leading boycott website, www.boycottscotland.com, is anonymous, so it's unclear who or what organization is behind the move--though if I were the marketing director at Seagram's, I'd be kicking myself for not thinking of this myself.

(Hat tip to John Hansell of Malt Advocate.)

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Clay Risen is an editor at The New York Times, and is the author of A Nation on Fire: America in the Wake of the King Assassination. He has written for The New Republic, Smithsonian, and The New York Times Sunday Magazine.

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