How to read the label of a Scotch Whisky

How to read the label of a Scotch Whisky

How to read the label of a Scotch Whisky


Whisky Label is very important because it will provide to the consumer the main characteristics of the whisky that she/he is going to buy and drink.

The basic information on the label are regulated under 2009 Scotch Whisky Regulations.

Firstly we have to point out that the word Whisk(e)y on the label will tell us a lot about the type of the whisky. Scottish, Canadian and Japanese distilleries use the spelling "Whisky" while Irish and some American distilleries use the spelling "Whiskey".

A Scotch Whisky Label usually includes the following information:

1. Name of the Distillery or Independed Bottler.

2. Whisky category to which that Scotch whisky belongs, i.e. "Single Malt Scotch Whisky", "Single Grain Scotch Whisky", "Blended Scotch Whisky", "Blended Malt Scotch Whisky" or "Blended Grain Scotch Whisky".

3. The Scottish locality or region in which the Scotch Whisky was distilled, such as "Speyside" or "Islay", if that Single Malt Scotch Whisky has been entirely distilled in that specified locality or region. Rules apply regarding the use of locality or regional names.

4. Alcohol Strenght: Alcohol By Volume (ABV, abv, or alc/vol) is a standard measure of how much alcohol (ethanol) is contained in a given volume of an alcoholic beverage (expressed as a volume percent) i.e., 43% correspond to a mixture of 43% of ethanol and 57% of water at 20°C. In the US, the strength is expressed in degree Proof, with 2 degree proof corresponding to 1 % ABV (or 1° US proof = 0.5 % ABV). Under the old imperial metric system, the strength of the bottles for the UK market was measured in UK (Imperial) degree proof with the UK degree Proof being different from the US degree proof. (e.g., 100 UK degree proof = 104 US degree proof =57% ABV). In some cases the bottler may choose to bottle the whisky at the strength it came out of the cask, in which case it is known as a cask strength whisky.

5. Bottle content. The volume of the whisky contained in the bottle. According to the EU directives the standard bottle size must be 70 cl or 700 ml. In the US, the standard volume is 75 cl or 750 ml. Duty free bottles are usually 100 cl or 1 L.

6. Age: The age statement on the label should state the age of the youngest barrel used for the production of the batch. For example 12 Years Old Whisky, indicates that the youngest whisky is at least 12 years old. The only time you know that all of the whisky in the bottle is actually ten years old is if it is labeled "single cask" or if it includes "distilled on" and "bottled on" dates. Some, distilleries include vintage information on the label. In this case, all of the whisky in the bottle comes from barrels filled in the same year and is of the same age i.e. Vintage 1973.

7. Limited or Special Edition maybe written on the label companied with the batch and bottle number and in some cases the cask number.

The above label information are not exhausting because each distiller or independed bottler may include additional specific information depending on their marketing and branding policy for example:

A. Double/Trible distillation.
B. Peating: within the industry, the peat-smoke character is measured in parts per million (ppm) of phenol.
C. Bourbon Ageing.
D. Sherry Ageing.
E. Secondary or extra maturation or cask finishing i.e. Port Cask Finish, Madeira Wood Finish e.t.c.
F. Single cask.
G. Non-chilled filtered or natural Colour: Indicates that the colour of the whisky is natural. In most whiskies bottled at 40-43%, caramel is usually added to the whisky in order to obtain consistent colour between the different batches.
H. Master Blender's or Distillery Manager's name and signature.

So let's drink wisely!

Written by: Aristides Trimindis

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