Portman Group goes gunning for Bartex Bartol over violent packaging

INDUSTRY watchdog the Portman Group has asked retailers to stop placing orders for Bartex Bartol’s Cosa Nostra Scotch Whisky, after it was found to have a ‘direct association with violent, aggressive, dangerous and illegal behaviour’.

This is the most severe sanction that the Portman Group can apply, and comes as a result of the producer failing to comply with the recommendations of the Group’s Independent Complaints Panel.

That Panel noted the product’s bottle was in the shape of a Thompson ‘Tommy’ gun, creating a direct link between the drink and a dangerous weapon. The Panel also considered that the drink’s name, Cosa Nostra, was a reference to the Italian Mafia.

This, combined with multiple references on the product’s primary and secondary packaging, emphasised the product’s link to violent behaviour and the glamourisation of criminal activity. Accordingly, the Panel upheld the complaint under Code rule 3.2(b).

The Panel also noted that in the context of rising gun crime in the UK, the packaging was likely to cause ‘serious and widespread offence’, particularly in communities where gun crime was an ongoing issue. Accordingly, the complaint was upheld under Code rule 3.3.

A Retailer Alert Bulletin (RAB) is only issued by the Portman Group following an upheld complaint by the Panel where the producer chooses not to comply with that decision. A RAB requests that retailers cease placing orders for the product three months after the publication date and informs wider groups about the Panel decision.

The same producer has previously been the subject of a RAB in 2014 for its product Red Army Vodka.

Commenting on the decision, the Chair of the Independent Complaints Panel, Nicola Williams, said: “In light of rising gun crime in the UK, it is deeply irresponsible of an alcohol producer to glamorise firearms and market a product in this form.

“There were multiple and clear signs this product was in direct breach of the Code and unfortunately follows a complaint for a similar product by the same producer which the Panel upheld in 2014. I hope Bartex Bartol takes note that such products are completely unacceptable.”