What is Scotch Whisky?

what is scotch whisky

What is Scotch Whisky?

Scotch whisky is a protected designation of origin product, which means that it can only be called Scotch whisky if it is made in Scotland and meets certain production standards. The Scotch Whisky Regulations 2009 (SWR) set out these standards, which include:

  • Scotch whisky must be made in Scotland from only cereals, water and yeast.
  • It must be distilled below 94.8% abv and matured for a minimum of 3 years in oak casks.
  • It must be bottled at a minimum strength of 40% abv.
  • No flavouring or sweetening is permitted.

The SWR also sets out rules for the labelling, packaging and advertising of Scotch whisky. For example, the name “Scotch whisky” must be prominently displayed on the label, and any claims made about the whisky must be accurate.

The SWR are enforced by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA), which is a trade body representing the Scotch whisky industry. The SWA investigates any complaints about Scotch whisky that do not meet the SWR, and can take legal action against those who breach the regulations.

The SWR help to protect the reputation of Scotch whisky and ensure that consumers can be confident that they are buying a genuine product. They also help to promote Scotch whisky around the world and support the Scottish economy.

Here are some additional details about the Scotch Whisky Regulations 2009:

  • The SWR were introduced in 2009 to replace the previous legislation, the Scotch Whisky Act 1988.
  • The SWR were made by the Scottish Parliament, and are enforced by the SWA.
  • The SWR are made up of 14 regulations, which cover a range of topics including the definition of Scotch whisky, the production process, the labelling and packaging of Scotch whisky, and the advertising of Scotch whisky.
  • The SWR are available to view on the Legislation.gov.uk website.

Scotch whisky is a popular drink around the world. In 2021, the Scotch whisky industry exported over £4.7 billion worth of whisky. The United States is the largest market for Scotch whisky, followed by France, Germany, and Canada.

The History of Scotch Whisky

The history of Scotch whisky is long and complex, dating back to the 15th century. The earliest known record of whisky production in Scotland is from 1494 when Friar John Cor was paid eight bolls of malt to make aqua vitae. Aqua vitae is Latin for “water of life” and was the general term for distilled spirits at the time.

In the 17th century, whisky production became more widespread in Scotland. The first commercial distillery in Scotland was established in 1703. In the 18th century, whisky production increased significantly. This was due in part to the introduction of new distilling techniques and in part to the growing popularity of whisky.

In the 19th century, Scotch whisky became a popular export. The British Empire was a major market for Scotch whisky and helped to spread its popularity around the world. Today, Scotch whisky is enjoyed by people all over the world.

The following are some of the key events in the history of Scotch whisky:

  • 1494: The first known record of whisky production in Scotland occurs when Friar John Cor is paid eight bolls of malt to make aqua vitae.
  • 1703: The first commercial distillery in Scotland is established in Leith.
  • 1823: The Excise Act is passed, which regulates the production of whisky in Scotland.
  • 1830: The first steam-powered whisky still is introduced.
  • 1860: The blended whisky industry is born.
  • 1920s: The Scotch whisky industry is hit by Prohibition in the United States.
  • 1930s: The Scotch whisky industry recovers from Prohibition and begins to grow again.
  • 1960s: The Scotch whisky industry begins to expand into new markets, such as Japan and Europe.
  • 1980s: The Scotch whisky industry experiences a period of rapid growth.
  • 1990s: The Scotch whisky industry begins to consolidate, with a number of smaller distilleries being bought up by larger companies.
  • 2000s: The Scotch whisky industry continues to grow, with exports increasing by an average of 5% per year.
  • 2020s: The Scotch whisky industry is facing a number of challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic and the UK’s exit from the European Union. However, the industry remains optimistic about the future and is confident that it will continue to grow and thrive.

Types of Scotch Whisky

  • Single malt whisky: This is the most popular type of Scotch whisky. It is made at a single distillery from malted barley. Single malt whiskies are typically aged in oak barrels for at least three years. The longer the whisky is aged, the more complex and flavorful it will be. Single malt whiskies can be enjoyed neat, on the rocks, or with water. They can also be used in cocktails.
  • Blended malt whisky: This is a blend of single malt whiskies from different distilleries. Blended malt whiskies are typically more mellow and easier to drink than single malt whiskies. They are often used in cocktails.
  • Grain whisky: This is made from a variety of grains, including wheat, rye, and corn. Grain whiskies are typically used in blended whiskies to add body and flavour. They are not typically enjoyed neat.
  • Blended whisky: This is a mixture of single malt whiskies and grain whiskies. Blended whiskies are the most popular type of Scotch whisky in the world. They are typically more affordable than single-malt whiskies and are easier to find.

In addition to these four main types of Scotch whisky, there are also a number of other types, including:

  • Single cask whisky: This is a whisky that has been bottled from a single cask. Single-cask whiskies are typically very limited in quantity and can be quite expensive.
  • Cask strength whisky: This is a whisky that has not been diluted with water. Cask-strength whiskies are typically very high in alcohol content, often around 60% ABV.
  • Peated whisky: This is a whisky that has been made with malted barley that has been smoked over peat. Peated whiskies have a strong, smoky flavour.
  • Unpeated whisky: This is a whisky that has not been made with peated malted barley. Unpeated whiskies have a more delicate flavour.