London, 13 July 2023: Retailers have been asked 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, and caused serious and widespread offence. A copy of the full decision is available here.

The complaint was upheld by the Portman Group’s Independent Complaints Panel, resulting in the most severe sanction as a result of the producer’s failure to comply.

The 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 the name of a well-known faction of 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 serious issue. Furthermore, those who were directly affected by the violence perpetrated by the Mafia syndicate Cosa Nostra would consider packaging glamourising the Cosa Nostra seriously offensive. 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 producer has previously been the subject of a RAB in 2014 with 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.”


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Notes to editors

  1. Images provided
  2. A spokesperson is available for interviews upon request.
  3. The Retailer Alert Bulletin can be found here.