Scotch Whisky 101

Often referred to as simply "Scotch," Scotch Whisky is a malt whisky or grain whisky made in Scotland.

As of November 23, 2009, the Scotch Whisky Regulations 2009 (SWR) define and regulate the production, labeling, packaging and advertising of Scotch whisky. The SWR define "Scotch whisky" as:
  • Produced at a distillery in Scotland from water and malted barley
  • Matured in a warehouse in Scotland in oak casks of a capacity not exceeding 185 U.S. gallons for at least three years
  • Retaining the color, aroma and taste of the raw materials used in the production and maturation
  • Containing no added substances other than water and plain caramel coloring
  • Comprising a minimum alcoholic strength by volume of 40%
  • Bottled and labeled in Scotland
Scotch Whisky Glass | Image Credit: Scotch Whiskey Glasses

Scotch whisky is divided into five distinct categories.
  • Single Malt Scotch Whisky: Scotch whisky distilled from a fermented mash of malted barley at a single distillery. 
  • Single Grain Scotch Whisky: Scotch whisky distilled from a fermented mash of one or more grains at a single distillery.
  • Blended Malt Scotch Whisky: Scotch whisky distilled from a fermented mash of malted barley at more than one distillery. "Blended malt" is synonymous with "vatted malt."
  • Blended Grain Scotch Whisky: Scotch whisky distilled from a fermented mash of one or more grains at more than one distillery.
  • Blended Scotch Whisky: Scotch whisky distilled from a fermented mash of one or more single malt Scotch whiskies with one or more single grain Scotch whiskies. 
The use of the terms "vatted malt" and "pure malt" are now prohibited on labels. The term "blended malt" is still debated given its confusion with the term "blended Scotch whisky" which contains some amount of grain whisky.

Scotland was traditionally divided into four regions: The Highlands, Lowland, Islay and Campbeltown. Since Speyside has nearly half the total number of distilleries in Scotland, it is now officially recognized as a  region unto itself. 
  • Lowland: Only three distilleries remain in operation - Auchentoshan, Bladnoch and Glenkinchie.
  • Speyside: Has the largest number of distilleries, including Aberlour, Balvenie, Cardhu, Cragganmore, Glenfarclas, Glenfiddich, Speyburn, The Glenlivet, The Glenrothes and The Macallan.
  • Highland: Distilleries include Aberfeldy, Balblair, Ben Nevis, Dalmore, Dalwhinnie, Glen Ord, Glenmorangie, Oban and Old Pulteney. The Islands are an unrecognized sub-region of The Highlands which include distilleries such as Arran, Isle of Jura, Tobermory, Highland Park and Scapa, and Talisker.
  • Campbeltown: Once home to over 30 distilleries, it now only has three - Glen Scotia, Glengyle and Springbank.
  • Islay: Has eight producing distilleries - Ardbeg, Bowmore, Bruichladdich, Bunnahabhain, Caol Ila, Kilchoman, Lagavulin and Laphroaig. 

Scotch Regions | Image Credit: Wikipedia

Scotch whisky labels include certain aspects of production, age, bottling and ownership. The label always states the malt or grain whiskies used. The brand name on the label is usually the same as the name of the distillery, and often the label will indicate the region of the distillery. Scotch whisky without an age statement may, by law, be as young as three years old. Finally, the label may also declare various filtration techniques. For example, the claims "natural" or "non-chill-filtered" indicate that product has not been through a filtration process during bottling that removes certain compounds.

The Glenlivet 12-Year Label | Image Credit: Wine Chateau


1 comment:

  1. This truly luxurious decanter carries with it one of the most exquisite whiskies, a very old single malt cask strength Islay whisky. Burgundy wine