Bartex Bartol


Breach of guidelines, namely that drinks “should not suggest any association with bravado, or with violent, aggressive, dangerous, anti-social or illegal behaviour”


Member of the public


Under Code paragraph 3.2(b)

A drink it’s packaging and any promotional material or activity should not in any direct or indirect way suggest any association with bravado or with violent aggressive, dangerous anti-social or illegal behaviour.


Under Code paragraph 3.3

A drink’s name, its packaging and any promotional material or activity should not cause serious or widespread offence.


The Company’s Submission

The company did not submit a response to the complaint.

The Panel’s Assessment

Code Rule 3.2(b)

The Panel discussed whether the packaging of Cosa Nostra Scotch Whisky suggested any association with violent, aggressive, dangerous, anti-social or illegal behaviour. The Panel reviewed the shape of the bottle as the product’s primary packaging and observed that it was a replica of a Thompson submachine gun, known as a ‘Tommy Gun’, which the Panel determined created a direct link between the drink and a dangerous weapon. The Panel considered that a Tommy Gun was often used in depictions of historical organised crime syndicates, and while a Tommy Gun was not a contemporary gun, the average consumer would recognise it as a firearm. Therefore, the Panel considered that the shape of the bottle created a clear link between the drink and a dangerous weapon which was wholly inappropriate for an alcoholic drink.

The Panel then discussed the drink’s name, Cosa Nostra, and noted that the ‘Cosa Nostra’ were a well-known faction of the Italian Mafia, an organised crime group renowned for engaging in violent behaviour and illegal activities. The Panel noted that text included on the packaging stated ‘post proelia praemia’ which translated in English to ‘after the battle, comes the reward’, further compounding the association between the drink, violent behaviour and the glamorisation of criminal activity.

The Panel noted that the gun-shaped product came packaged in a large box which included the product name, an image of the primary packaging inside, imagery of two Tommy Guns crossed over each other and images of bullet holes on the box. The Panel noted that this further emphasised the product’s direct link to violent behaviour and the glamourisation of criminal activity.

Considering the overall impression of the primary and secondary packaging, the Panel concluded that the name, the gun shape packaging and the language used all created a direct association with violent, aggressive, dangerous and illegal behaviour which glamourised crime and mafioso culture. Accordingly, the Panel upheld the complaint under Code rule 3.2(b).

Code Rule 3.3

In light of the above, the Panel considered whether the drinks packaging could cause serious or widespread offence. The Panel discussed the association created between the drink and Cosa Nostra, a real-life criminal organisation. The Panel discussed that the average consumer would be aware of the Cosa Nostra given it was still a contemporary group, and one which was intrinsically linked with extreme violence, aggression, and criminal activity. The Panel stated that those who were directly affected by the violence perpetrated by the syndicate would consider packaging glamourising the Cosa Nostra seriously offensive.

The Panel also considered that the packaging created a clear link between an alcohol drink and a firearm. In the context of rising gun crime in the UK, the Panel considered that the packaging was also likely to cause serious and widespread offence, particularly to communities in which gun crime was an ongoing serious issue. Accordingly, the complaint was upheld under Code rule 3.3.

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