A Scotch-branded whisky is causing consternation in Italy thanks to its name and unusual packaging.
Cosa Nostra is advertised as a three-year-old blended whisky and is sold in a bottle shaped like a machine gun with the words ‘post proelia premia’ – ‘after the battles come the rewards’ – emblazoned at the top.
The spirit is named after the Sicilian mafia and is advertised as recalling “the era of Al Capone or Lucky Luciano”.
The whisky is presumably being sold as a novelty item but in Italy stereotypes about organised crime are no laughing matter. As financial newspaper il Sole 24 Ore noted “the word mafia reminds us only of pain and death”.
Coldiretti, the association of agricultural entrepreneurs and farmers, along with Fileria Italia, an agriculture and industry alliance, have hit out at Cosa Nostra whisky and other products which use mafia imagery.
The two organisations took to the streets of Palermo to display the products, putting the Scotch on a table in Piazza del Teatro Politeama with a label reading ‘at the table with the Cosa Nostra’.
Also on display were ‘Chilli Mafia’ nuts, sold in the UK, ‘Maffiozzo’ coffee from Bulgaria, and ‘Palermo Mafia Shooting’ nuts from Germany.
Coldiretti warned that such stereotypes harm the image of Italian produce abroad, at a time where they estimate around 300,000 jobs have been lost due to the “counterfeiting and falsification” of Italian food.
The group estimates counterfeit products not under the Made In Italy umbrella generate around €120bn per year and warned that branding with organised crime could cause “economic and image damage” in emerging markets.
They accused the businesses of operating “without regard for the pain of the victims and to the detriment of the country’s image”.
President of Coldiretti Ettore Prandini said: “The use of names alluding to the mafia is a business that causes serious damage to the image of Made in Italy by exploiting stereotypes related to mafia organisations, trivialising and quasi-normalising a phenomenon which has brought pain and grief across our country.”
The Cosa Nostra whisky was described by Coldiretti as being “from Scotland” and the bottle does carry the designation ‘Scotch whisky’. For that claim to be legitimate a series of legal standards must be met.
To be labelled Scotch, the whisky must have been matured for at least three years in oak casks, have a minimum alcoholic strength by volume of 40 per cent, be produced at a distillery in Scotland from water and malted barley and contain no added substances outside water and caramel colouring.
The Herald found that Cosa Nostra was produced by a group called Bartex Wine & Spirits based in Poland, from a whisky named Glen Gate which is sold in the Eastern European country.
Bartex did not respond to a request for comment.
A spokesperson for the Scotch Whisky Association said: “The Scotch Whisky industry takes its commitment to responsible marketing extremely seriously, and the marketing of products which celebrate violence, aggression or illegal behaviour is not something we would ever condone. The product is under investigation by both our Legal and Alcohol Policy teams.”