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The Whisky knowledge

The Whisky knowledge

Yes. The producers of Champagne must make their sparkling wine in the Champagne region of France before they can label it as such. Distillers who want to call their product Scotch likewise must produce their whisky in Scotland. But that’s only one stipulation of the Scotch Whisky Regulations 2009, the legislation under which the production, bottling, labelling, packaging and advertising of Scotch whisky remains governed. Based on the Scotch Whisky Act of 1988, the Regulations make for interesting, although perhaps not bedtime, reading.

According to the 2017 Britain’s Biggest Alcohol Brands report, published by The Grocer, The Famous Grouse was the UK’s tenth biggest alcohol brand by off-trade value, and the only brand of Scotch whisky to make it into the report’s top ten. The Famous Grouse certainly does command a significant presence in Scotland even if this report does not state figures by country. Statistics aside, many enthusiasts will find it difficult to single out a favourite dram on account of the myriad of styles and flavours available.

In order to produce malted barley, maltsters must germinate green (fresh) barley and then quickly halt the process of germination. Distillers use a kiln for this. Peat fires heated the kilns in days gone by as peat was the most abundant and accessible source of fuel across the country. Alternative fuel sources eventually took the place of peat in kilns, but many producers today still rely on peated barley in varying proportions in their mashbills. Tarry, smoky flavours arise in whisky produced using peated barley. For more information about peated whisky.

There are no official Scotch whisky regions but applying geographical boundaries is still a useful exercise for many and helps with differentiation. The five areas most commonly used in reference to whisky are:

  1. Speyside
  2. Islay
  3. Campbeltown
  4. Lowlands
  5. Highlands and Islands (Islands is often considered a region in its own right).

Of course the characteristics that define these regions are less exclusive now than they were when the regions were established. Heavily peated whisky, for instance, doesn’t have to just come from Islay. That’s why some people are reluctant to apply geographical constraints when talking about whisky today.

The Scotch Whisky Regulations 2009 define five types of Scotch whisky. Here’s how the types of whisky differ:

  • Single malt Scotch whisky must be distilled at a single distillery.
  • Single grain Scotch whisky is also distilled at a single distillery but made from cereal grains rather than just malted barley.
  • Blended Scotch whisky combines one or more single malt Scotch whiskies with one or more single grain Scotch whiskies.
  • Blended malt Scotch whisky is a blend of two or more single malt Scotch whiskies from different distilleries.
  • Blended grain Scotch whisky is a blend of single grain Scotch whiskies, which have been distilled at more than one distillery.
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