The Definition of Scotch Whisky

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On the occasion of a court case recently won by the Scotch Whisky Association, in connection with the false use of the term "Scotch Whisky" by 3 companies in India, but also because of various other cases of defrauding consumers by falsely using the term, in this article we will analyse the Definition of Scotch Whisky that is perfectly clear and easily understandable by those who read it.

The first evidence of whisky production in Scotland appears in the late 15th century and comes from an entry in the Exchequer Rolls for 1494 where malt is sent "to Friar John Cor, by order of the king, to make "aqua vitae", enough to make about 500 bottles.

The production - distillation of whisky in Scotland is an art, which evolved with time and has found many imitators throughout the world, since today whisky is produced in around 20 countries worldwide.

In its early years, whisky was almost unprocessed and the term maturation was mostly unknown, while also used as medicine for curing almost everything. Nowadays, the situation is very different, with near perfection whisky production methods, use of state of art equipment and taking care each and every tiny details in the process to reach the desirable end product.

There are many factors influencing the character, aromas and the taste of a particular whisky. From the quality of the barley and yeast being used, the geographical location of the distillery, climate, water, the type of the cask and the years the whisky is left to mature in it and even the shape of pot stills play a role.

If we ignore the location and the country of origin of the whisky, then the process is almost identical across the world. Sometimes even the raw materials used are the same.

What makes Scotch Whisky the "king of whiskies" though, is the history that precedes and follows it. An intense history with many difficult years that in the end gives a memory of a fairytale with a happy ending. Scotch Whisky has fought and has lasted throughout time and words like "prohibition" "banned", " illegal ", belong to the past.

So for a bottle of whisky to have the permission to be named Scotch Whisky it has, according to the Scotch Whisky Regulations to include the following:


Scotch Whisky means a whisky produced in Scotland

(a) that has been distilled at a distillery in Scotland from water and malted barley (to which only whole grains of other cereals may be added) all of which have been—

(i) processed at that distillery into a mash;

(ii) converted at that distillery into a fermentable substrate only by endogenous enzyme systems; and

(iii) fermented at that distillery only by the addition of yeast;

(b) that has been distilled at an alcoholic strength by volume of less than 94.8 per cent so that the distillate has an aroma and taste derived from the raw materials used in, and the method of, its production;

(c) that has been matured only in oak casks of a capacity not exceeding 700 litres;

(d) that has been matured only in Scotland;

(e) that has been matured for a period of not less than three years;

(f) that has been matured only in an excise warehouse or a permitted place;

(g) that retains the colour, aroma and taste derived from the raw materials used in, and the method of, its production and maturation;

(h) to which no substance has been added, or to which no substance has been added except—

(i) water;

(ii) plain caramel colouring; or

(iii) water and plain caramel colouring; and

(i) that has a minimum alcoholic strength by volume of 40%.

Written by:

Tasos Protopapas
Co Founder of

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