Scotch whisky

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Scotch whisky
Glass of Bell's.png
Type Whisky
Country of origin Scotland
Alcohol by volume 40–94.8%

Scotch whisky (Scottish Gaelic : uisge-beatha na h-Alba; often simply called Scotch) is malt whisky or grain whisky made in Scotland. Scotch whisky must be made in a manner specified by law. [1]

Contents

All Scotch whisky was originally made from malted barley. Commercial distilleries began introducing whisky made from wheat and rye in the late 18th century. [2] Scotch whisky is divided into five distinct categories: single malt Scotch whisky, single grain Scotch whisky, blended malt Scotch whisky (formerly called "vatted malt" or "pure malt"), blended grain Scotch whisky, and blended Scotch whisky. [1] [3]

All Scotch whisky must be aged in oak barrels for at least three years. [1] [3] Any age statement on a bottle of Scotch whisky, expressed in numerical form, must reflect the age of the youngest whisky used to produce that product. A whisky with an age statement is known as guaranteed-age whisky. A whisky without an age statement is known as a no age statement (NAS) whisky, the only guarantee being that all whisky contained in that bottle is at least three years old.

The first written mention of Scotch whisky is in the Exchequer Rolls of Scotland, 1495. A friar named John Cor was the distiller at Lindores Abbey in Newburgh, Fife, [4] where, in October 2017, malt whisky production restarted for the first time in 522 years. [5]

Many Scotch whisky drinkers refer to a unit for drinking as a dram. [6]

Regulations and labelling

As of 23 November 2009, the Scotch Whisky Regulations 2009 (SWR) define and regulate the production, labelling, packaging as well as the advertising of Scotch whisky in the United Kingdom. They replace previous regulations that focused solely on production. International trade agreements have the effect of making some provisions of the SWR apply in various other countries as well as in the UK. The SWR define "Scotch whisky" as whisky that is: [1] [3]

Labelling

A Scotch whisky label comprises several elements that indicate aspects of production, age, bottling, and ownership. Some of these elements are regulated by the SWR, [7] and some reflect tradition and marketing. [8] The spelling of the term "whisky" is often debated by journalists and consumers. Scottish, English, Welsh, Australian and Canadian whiskies use "whisky", Irish whiskies use "whiskey", while American and other styles vary in their spelling of the term. [9]

The label always features a declaration of the malt or grain whiskies used. A single malt Scotch whisky is one that is entirely produced from malt in one distillery. One may also encounter the term "single cask", signifying the bottling comes entirely from one cask. [9] The term "blended malt" signifies that single malt whisky from different distilleries are blended in the bottle. [10] The Cardhu distillery also began using the term "pure malt" for the same purpose, causing a controversy in the process over clarity in labelling [11] [12] – the Glenfiddich distillery was using the term to describe some single malt bottlings. As a result, the Scotch Whisky Association declared that a mixture of single malt whiskies must be labelled a "blended malt". The use of the former terms "vatted malt" and "pure malt" is prohibited. The term "blended malt" is still debated, as some bottlers maintain that consumers confuse the term with "blended Scotch whisky", which contains some proportion of grain whisky. [13]

The brand name featured on the label is usually the same as the distillery name (for example, the Talisker distillery labels its whiskies with the Talisker name). Indeed, the SWR prohibit bottlers from using a distillery name when the whisky was not made there. A bottler name may also be listed, sometimes independent of the distillery. In addition to requiring that Scotch whisky be distilled in Scotland, the SWR require that it also be bottled and labelled in Scotland. Labels may also indicate the region of the distillery (for example, Islay or Speyside). [14]

Alcoholic strength is expressed on the label with "Alcohol By Volume" ("ABV") or sometimes simply "Vol". [14] Typically, bottled whisky is between 40% and 46% ABV. [15] Whisky is considerably stronger when first emerging from the cask—normally 60–63% ABV. [14] [15] Water is then added to create the desired bottling strength. If the whisky is not diluted before bottling, it can be labelled as cask strength. [15]

A whisky's age may be listed on the bottle providing a guarantee of the youngest whisky used. An age statement on the bottle, in the form of a number, must reflect the age of the youngest whisky used to produce that product. A whisky with an age statement is known as guaranteed age whisky. [16] Scotch whisky without an age statement may, by law, be as young as three years old. [1] In the early 21st century, such "No age statement" whiskies have become more common, as distilleries respond to the depletion of aged stocks caused by improved sales. [17] A label may carry a distillation date or a bottling date. Whisky does not mature once bottled, so if no age statement is provided, one may calculate the age of the whisky if both the distillation date and bottling date are given. [14]

Labels may also carry various declarations of filtration techniques or final maturation processes. A Scotch whisky labelled as "natural" or "non-chill-filtered" has not been through a filtration process during bottling that removes compounds that some consumers see as desirable. Whisky is aged in various types of casks—and often in used sherry or port casks—during distinct portions of the maturation process, and will take on characteristics, flavour and aromas from such casks. Special casks are sometimes used at the end of the maturation process, and such whiskies may be labelled as "wood finished", "sherry/port finished", and so on. [14]

Types

Various Scotch whiskies Scotch whiskies.jpg
Various Scotch whiskies

There are two basic types of Scotch whisky, from which all blends are made:

Excluded from the definition of "single grain Scotch whisky" is any spirit that qualifies as a single malt Scotch whisky or as a blended Scotch whisky. The latter exclusion is to ensure that a blended Scotch whisky produced from single malt(s) and single grain(s) distilled at the same distillery does not also qualify as single grain Scotch whisky.

Three types of blends are defined for Scotch whisky:

The five Scotch whisky definitions are structured in such a way that the categories are mutually exclusive. The 2009 regulations changed the formal definition of blended Scotch whisky to achieve this result, but in a way that reflected traditional and current practice: before the 2009 SWR, any combination of Scotch whiskies qualified as a blended Scotch whisky, including for example a blend of single malt Scotch whiskies.

As was the case under the Scotch Whisky Act 1988, regulation 5 of the SWR 2009 stipulates that the only whisky that may be manufactured in Scotland is Scotch whisky. The definition of manufacture is "keeping for the purpose of maturation; and keeping, or using, for the purpose of blending, except for domestic blending for domestic consumption". This provision prevents the existence of two "grades" of whisky originating from Scotland, one “Scotch whisky” and the other, a "whisky – product of Scotland" that complies with the generic EU standard for whisky. According to the Scotch Whisky Association, allowing non-Scotch whisky production in Scotland would make it difficult to protect Scotch whisky as a distinctive product. [3]

Single grain

The majority of grain whisky produced in Scotland goes to make blended Scotch whisky. The average blended whisky is 60%–85% grain whisky. Some higher-quality grain whisky from a single distillery is bottled as single grain whisky.[ citation needed ]

Blended malt

Blended malt whisky—formerly called vatted malt or pure malt (terms that are now prohibited in the SWR 2009)—is one of the least common types of Scotch: a blend of single malts from more than one distillery (possibly with differing ages). Blended malts contain only malt whiskies—no grain whiskies—and are usually distinguished from other types of whisky by the absence of the word "single" before "malt" on the bottle, and the absence of a distillery name. The age of the vat is that of the youngest of the original ingredients. For example, a blended malt marked "8 years old" may include older whiskies, with the youngest constituent being eight years old. Johnnie Walker Green Label and Monkey Shoulder are examples of blended malt whisky. Starting from November 2011, no Scotch whisky could be labelled as a vatted malt or pure malt, the SWR requiring them to be labelled blended malt instead. [19]

Blended

Johnnie Walker Scotch whisky bottles. Johnnie Walker Blends Lineup.jpg
Johnnie Walker Scotch whisky bottles.

Blended Scotch whisky constitutes about 90% of the whisky produced in Scotland. [20] Blended Scotch whiskies contain both malt whisky and grain whisky. Producers combine the various malts and grain whiskies to produce a consistent brand style. Notable blended Scotch whisky brands include Ballantine's, Bell's, Chivas Regal, Cutty Sark, Dewar's, J&B, Johnnie Walker, Teacher's Highland Cream, The Famous Grouse, and Whyte and Mackay.

Independent bottlers

Most malt distilleries sell a significant amount of whisky by the cask for blending, and sometimes to private buyers as well. Whisky from such casks is sometimes bottled as a single malt by independent bottling firms such as Duncan Taylor, Master of Malt, [21] Gordon & MacPhail, Cadenhead's, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society, Murray McDavid, Berry Bros. & Rudd, Douglas Laing, and others. These are usually labelled with the distillery's name, but not using the distillery's trademarked logos or typefaces. An "official bottling" (or "proprietary bottling"), by comparison, is from the distillery (or its owner). Many independent bottlings are from single casks, and they may sometimes be very different from an official bottling.[ citation needed ]

For a variety of reasons, some independent brands do not identify which facility distilled the whisky in the bottle. They may instead identify only the general geographical area of the source, or they simply market the product using their own brand name without identifying their source. This may, in some cases, be simply to give the independent bottling company the flexibility to purchase from multiple distillers without changing their labels.[ citation needed ]

History

Greybeard Heather Dew Scotch whisky jug Greybeard whisky.JPG
Greybeard Heather Dew Scotch whisky jug

To Friar John Cor, by order of the King, to make aqua vitae, VIII bolls of malt.

Exchequer Rolls of Scotland, 1 June 1495.

According to the Scotch Whisky Association, Scotch whisky evolved from a Scottish drink called uisge beatha, which means "water of life". The earliest record of distillation in Scotland occurred as long ago as 1494, as documented in the Exchequer Rolls , which were records of royal income and expenditure. [22] The quote above records eight bolls of malt given to Friar John Cor wherewith to make aqua vitae (Latin for "water of life," = uisge beatha) over the previous year. This would be enough for 1,500 bottles, which suggests that distillation was well-established by the late 15th century. [23]

Whisky production was first taxed in 1644, causing a rise in illicit whisky distilling in the country. Between the 1760s and the 1830s a substantial unlicensed trade originated from the Highlands, forming a significant part of the region's export economy. In 1782, more than 1,000 illegal stills were seized in the Highlands: these can only have been a fraction of those in operation. The Lowland distillers, who had no opportunity to avoid taxation, complained that un-taxed Highland whisky made up more than half the market. The heavy taxation during the Napoleonic Wars gave the illicit trade a big advantage, but their product was also considered better quality, commanding a higher price in the Lowlands. This was due to the method of taxation: malt was subject to tax (at a rate that climbed substantially between the 1790s and 1822). The licensed distillers therefore used more raw grain in an effort to reduce their tax bill. [24] :119-134

The Highland magistrates, themselves members of the landowning classes, had a lenient attitude to unlicensed distillers - all of whom would be tenants in the local area. They understood that the trade supported the rents paid. Imprisoned tenants would not be able to pay any rent. [24] :119-134

In 1823, Parliament eased restrictions on licensed distilleries with the "Excise Act", while at the same time making it harder for the illegal stills to operate. Magistrates found counsel for the crown appearing in their courts, so forcing the maximum penalties to be applied, with some cases removed to the Court of Exchequer in Edinburgh for tougher sentences. Highland landowners were now happy to remove tenants who were distillers in clearances on their estates. These changes ushered in the modern era of Scotch production: in 1823 2,232,000 gallons of whisky had duty paid on it; in 1824 this increased to 4,350,000 gallons. [24] :119–134

Two events helped to increase whisky's popularity: first, the introduction in 1831 of the column still; the whisky produced with this process was generally less expensive to produce and also less intense and smoother, because a column still can perform the equivalent of multiple distillation steps in a continuous distillation process. Second, the phylloxera bug destroyed wine and cognac production in France in 1880.[ citation needed ]

Regions

The regions of Scotch whisky Scotch regions.svg
The regions of Scotch whisky

Scotland was traditionally divided into four regions: The Highlands, The Lowlands, The Isle of Islay, and Campbeltown. [25] Due to the large number of distilleries found there, the Speyside region is also recognized by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) as a distinct region, as of 2014. [26] The whisky-producing islands other than Islay are not recognised as a distinct region by the SWA, which groups them into the Highlands region. [26]

Although only five regions are specifically described, any Scottish locale may be used to describe a whisky if it is distilled entirely within that place; for example a single malt whisky distilled on Orkney could be described as Orkney Single Malt Scotch Whisky [3] instead of as an Island whisky.

See also

Related Research Articles

Whisky Type of distilled alcoholic beverage made from fermented grain mash

Whisky or whiskey is a type of distilled alcoholic beverage made from fermented grain mash. Various grains are used for different varieties, including barley, corn, rye, and wheat. Whisky is typically aged in wooden casks, generally made of charred white oak.

Single malt Scotch is single malt whisky made in Scotland. To be a single malt scotch the whisky must have been distilled at a single distillery using a pot still distillation process and made from a mash of malted barley. As with any Scotch whisky, a single malt Scotch must be distilled in Scotland and matured in oak casks in Scotland for at least three years and one day.

Single malt whisky malt whisky from a single distillery and made with malted barley

Single malt whisky is malt whisky from a single distillery. Single malts are typically associated with single malt Scotch, though they are also produced in various other countries. Under the United Kingdom's Scotch Whisky Regulations, a "Single Malt Scotch Whisky" must be made exclusively from malted barley, must be distilled using pot stills at a single distillery, and must be aged for at least three years in oak casks of a capacity not exceeding 700 litres. While the Scotch model is usually copied internationally, these constraints may not apply to whisky marketed as "single malt" that is produced elsewhere. For example, there is no definition of the term "single" with relation to whisky in the law of the United States, and some American whiskey advertised as "single malt whisky" is produced from malted rye rather than malted barley.

A blended whiskey is the product of blending different types of whiskeys and sometimes also neutral grain spirits, colorings, and flavorings. It is generally the product of mixing one or more higher-quality straight or single malt whiskey with less expensive spirits and other ingredients. This typically allows for a lower priced finished product, although expensive "premium" varieties also exist.

Royal Brackla distillery whisky distillery

Royal Brackla distillery is a Highland Scotch whisky distillery on the Cawdor Estate, near Nairn in Scotland. The distillery is operated by John Dewar & Sons Ltd for Bacardi.

Bowmore distillery Scottish whisky distillery

Bowmore is a distillery that produces Scotch Whisky on the Isle of Islay, an island of the Inner Hebrides. The distillery, which lies on the South Eastern shore of Loch Indaal, is one of the oldest in Scotland and is said to have been established in 1779. The distillery is owned by Morrison Bowmore Distillers Ltd, a holding company owned by Japanese drinks company Suntory. Morrison Bowmore also own the Auchentoshan and Glen Garioch distilleries and produce the McClelland's Single Malt range of bottlings.

Grain whisky

Grain whisky normally refers to any whisky made, at least in part, from grains other than malted barley. This could be whisky made using corn, wheat or rye. Grain whiskies usually contain some malted barley to provide enzymes needed for mashing and are required to include it if they are produced in Ireland or Scotland. Whisky made only from malted barley is generally called "malt whisky" rather than grain whisky. Most American and Canadian whiskies are grain whiskies.

William Grant & Sons Scottish company which distills Scotch whisky and other selected categories of spirits

William Grant & Sons Ltd. is an independent, family-owned Scottish company that distills Scotch whisky and other selected categories of spirits. It was established in 1887 by William Grant, and is now run by the descendants of the founder. It is the largest of the handful of Scotch whisky distillers remaining in family ownership. "William Grant & Sons" is often abbreviated to "W. Grant & Sons" or just "Grant's", after their blended whisky of the same name.

Springbank distillery trademark

The Springbank distillery is a family-owned single malt whisky distillery on the Kintyre Peninsula in western Scotland. It is owned by J & A Mitchell & Company, who also owns the Glengyle Distillery, the oldest independent bottler, William Cadenheads, and several blended scotch labels. Licensed in 1828, Springbank is one of the last surviving producers of single malt whiskies in Campbeltown, an area that once had over thirty active distilleries. The distillery produces three types of peated and unpeated malt whisky that it bottles under three distinct brands. The majority of its distillate is bottled as a single malt, with a small percentage sold to larger blenders or ending up in one of J&A Mitchell's own blended scotch labels, such as Campbeltown Loch.

Blended malt whisky

A blended malt, formerly called a vatted malt, or pure malt, is a blend of different single malt whiskies from different distilleries. These terms are most commonly used in reference to Scotch whisky, or whisky in that style, such as Japanese whisky.

Kilchoman distillery distillery that produces single malt Scotch whisky on Islay

The Kilchoman Distillery is a distillery that produces single malt Scotch whisky on Islay, an island of the Inner Hebrides. Kilchoman Distillery is situated in the North West of the island in close proximity to one of Islays most spectacular beaches, Machir Bay. Kilchoman was founded by Anthony Wills and remains an independent, family run distillery. It is the smallest on the island but since obtaining Rockside Farm in 2015, is in the process of expanding.

Malt whisky is whisky made from a fermented mash consisting primarily of malted barley. If the product is made exclusively at a single distillery, it is typically called a single malt whisky. Although malt whisky can be made using other malted grains besides barley, those versions are not called malt whisky without specifying the grain, such as rye malt whisky or buckwheat malt whisky.

Indian whisky

Most distilled spirits that are labelled as "whisky" in India are a form of Indian-made foreign liquor, commonly blends based on neutral spirits that are distilled from fermented molasses with only a small portion consisting of traditional malt whisky, usually about 10 to 12 percent. Outside India, such a drink would more likely be labelled a rum. According to the Scotch Whisky Association's 2013 annual report, unlike the European Union (EU), "there is no compulsory definition of whisky in India, and the Indian voluntary standard does not require whisky to be distilled from cereals or to be matured. Very little Indian 'whisky' qualifies as whisky in the EU owing to the use of molasses or neutral alcohol, limited maturation and the use of flavourings. Such spirits are, of course, considerably cheaper to produce than genuine whisky." Such molasses-based blends make up 90 percent of the spirits consumed as "whisky" in India, although whisky wholly distilled from malt and other grains, is also manufactured and sold.

Lochside distillery whisky distillery in Angus, Scotland, UK

The Lochside distillery was a distillery in Montrose, Angus that produced single malt scotch whisky and grain whisky. The distillery was owned by Macnab Distilleries Ltd. and latterly, by Allied Distillers, a subsidiary of the former British drinks and restaurant group Allied Domecq.

Glencadam distillery whisky distillery

The Glencadam distillery is a distillery in Brechin, Angus, Scotland that produces single malt Scotch whisky. The distillery is owned by Angus Dundee plc and produces one malt whisky, with the remainder of production sold to blenders or used within Angus Dundee plc for use in blended whisky brands.

Glenglassaugh distillery trademark

The Glenglassaugh distillery is a malt scotch whisky distillery which restarted production in November 2008 after being acquired by an independent investment group. Following a complete refurbishment by the new owners the distillery was re-opened on 24 November 2008 by the First Minister for Scotland Alex Salmond.

It has been common practice in the whisky industry for more than a century for distilleries to sell barrels of whisky to blenders and independent bottlers as a means of making additional income. In fact, some distilleries exist solely to serve independent bottlers, and do not market any brands themselves.

Mortlach distillery is a distiller of Scotch whisky in Dufftown, Moray, Scotland. Founded in 1823, the distillery is currently owned by Diageo. The whisky is a key component in several Johnnie Walker bottlings., while Diageo also markets four Mortlach single malts. The still pictured above is Dufftown distillery.

Glenallachie distillery whisky distillery

Glenallachie is a malt whisky distillery on Speyside at Aberlour founded in 1967. It has mainly produced whisky for blends. Under Chivas ownership it released 2 official bottlings at cask strength, one of 16 and one of 18 years old. A new core range of 10, 12, 18 and 25 year old whisky was released in 2018 under the new ownership, as well as additional single cask releases.

Amrut (whisky) Indian Single Malt Whiskey

Amrut is a brand of Indian single malt whisky, manufactured by Amrut Distilleries, and launched on 24 August 2004 in Glasgow, Scotland. It is the first single malt whisky to be made in India. Amrut (अमृत) or amrita is a Sanskrit word which can be translated as "nectar of the gods", "nectar of life", or "drink of the gods". The company translates it as "Elixir of Life". The brand became famous after whisky connoisseur Jim Murray gave it a rating of 82 out of 100 in 2005 and 2010. In 2010 Murray named Amrut Fusion single malt whisky as the third best in the world. John Hansell, editor of American magazine Whisky Advocate, wrote that "India's Amrut distillery changed the way many think of Indian whisky – that it was, in the past, just cheap Scotch whisky blended with who knows what and sold as Indian whisky. Amrut is making whisky, and it's very good".

References

Citations

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  2. MacLean 2010, p. 10.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Scotch Whisky Association 2009.
  4. Bender 2005, p. 556.
  5. "New distillery opens at Lindores Abbey in Fife". BBC News. 6 October 2017. Retrieved 31 May 2018.
  6. Simpson, John A.; Weiner, Edmund S.C., eds. (1989). "dram, n.". Oxford English Dictionary (2nd ed.). Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. ISBN   978-0-19-861186-8. OCLC   50959346 . Retrieved 2 July 2012. Earlier version first published in New English Dictionary , 1897.
  7. MacLean 2010, p. 20.
  8. MacLean 2010, p. 23.
  9. 1 2 Jackson 2010, p. 22.
  10. Jackson 2010, p. 23.
  11. Whisky branding deal reached, BBC News, December 4, 2003. Accessed May 2, 2012.
  12. Tran, Mark (4 December 2003). "Whisky industry settles on strict malt definitions". The Guardian . Retrieved 23 March 2014.
  13. Jackson 2010, pp. 419–420.
  14. 1 2 3 4 5 MacLean 2010, p. 21.
  15. 1 2 3 Jackson 2010, p. 25.
  16. Hansell 2010.
  17. Mure Dickie (9 December 2013). "Hopes soar for spirited revival". Financial Times . Retrieved 23 January 2014.(registration required)
  18. [https://www.whiskybosh.com/whisky-handbook/2019/9/30/how-is-whisky-made Accessed October 4, 2019.
  19. Scotch Whisky Association 2009, Chapter 11.
  20. "Statistical Report" (PDF). Ccotch-whisky.org. 2009. Archived from the original (PDF) on 31 January 2012. Retrieved 16 November 2011.
  21. "Buy Whisky Online - Single Malt Whisky & More - Master of Malt". Master of Malt.
  22. Exchequer Rolls of Scotland, 1494–95, vol 10, p. 487, "Et per liberacionem factam fratri Johanni Cor per perceptum compotorum rotulatoris, ut asserit, de mandato domini regis ad faciendum aquavite infra hoc compotum viij bolle brasii.": See also Accounts of the Lord High Treasurer of Scotland, vol 1, (Edinburgh 1877), pp. ccxiii-iv, 373, December 1497, "Item, to the barbour that brocht acqua vitae to the King in Dundee, by the King's command, xxxi shillings."
  23. "History". Scotch Whisky Association. Retrieved 16 July 2012.
  24. 1 2 3 Devine, T M (1994). Clanship to Crofters' War: The social transformation of the Scottish Highlands (2013 ed.). Manchester University Press. ISBN   978-0-7190-9076-9.
  25. The Scotch Whisky Regulations 2009 – Chapter 8 section 1
  26. 1 2 3 "Whisky Regions & Tours". Scotch Whisky Association. Retrieved 13 May 2014.
  27. "Eden Mill - Scotch Whisky". Scotchwhisky.com. Retrieved 9 September 2018.
  28. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 10 December 2013. Retrieved 3 December 2013.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  29. "Spirited revival for third distillery". 10 October 2017. Retrieved 26 July 2019.
  30. "Rosebank distillery set to reopen in 2020 | Scotch Whisky". scotchwhisky.com. Retrieved 26 July 2019.
  31. 1 2 "Your Cheat Sheet to Scottish Whisky Regions". Flaviar. 14 September 2016. Retrieved 3 November 2019.
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Further reading