A Short Summary of Whisky

Though Whisky is now distilled in many countries, the standard or benchmark that is most use will certainly be that of the SWA (Scotch Whisky Association), the custodians of the image, quality and provenance of this noble beverage that is synonymous with Scotland.


Having earned the respect and reputation the world over, the SWA stipulates regulations and procedures on production, aging and   classification for Scotch Whisky distilleries and independent bottlers that endeavour to have their whiskies labelled as Scotch Whisky.  These strict rules were instituted to ensure quality standards and to protect the Scottish branding of their Whiskies. We hope that the following   explains the processes and various classifications of Scotch Whisky that can sometimes be confusing even to veteran consumers of Whisky.

Whisky or Whiskey?

Whisky : Scotland, Japan, Canada & Australia

Whiskey : Ireland & USA


Whole Grains used in Whisky

Rye – Spice, Dried Fruit

Wheat – Mellow, Honey

Corn – Sweet, Spicy, Oily

Barley – Cerial, Biscuity


Scientific Definition of Malt: Germinated Whole Grain

Hence in Science, malt could be germinated Rye, Wheat, Corn or Barley

BUT, in the world of Whisky it only refers to Germinated Barley.

3 main Classifications of Whisky:

Malt Whisky

  1. Single Cask Malt

  • A truly unblended Malt Whisky

  • Whisky from one Malt Whisky Cask

  2. Single Malt

  • A Blend of various Malt Whiskies from One Distillery

  • Whisky from more than one Malt Cask

  3. Blended Malt

 The legal term for Malt Whiskies put together from more than one Distillery

 Also classified as:

  • Vatted Malt

  • Pure Malt

  • All Malt

  • 100% Malt



Grain Whisky

 Distilled from any Mash combination of:

 Wheat - Unmalted or Malted

 Rye - Unmalted or Malted

 Corn - Unmalted or Malted

 Barley - Unmalted

 Plus must have Malted Barley for conversion of complexed sugars in the Mash Bill to simple sugars as well as to give richness and structure.


  1. Single Cask Grain

  • A truly unblended Grain Whisky

  • Whisky from one Grain Whisky Cask

  2. Single Grain

  • A Blend of various Grain Whiskies from One Distillery

  • Whisky from more than one Grain Cask


Blended Whisky

 A Blend of one or more:

  • Malt Whiskies

  • Grain Whiskies

 Simply it is the mixing of the 2 categories above ie Malt and Grain Whiskies from as many distilleries as needed, hence sometimes termed “Scotland in a Bottle”.

Scotch Whisky Regions








 Island - Orkney, Skye, Mull, Jura, Arran








Scotch Whisky Requirements


 Distilled to less than 94.8% in Scotland

 Aged for min 3 years in Scotland

 Age statement is that of the youngest

 Aged in Oak Casks

 Casks have to be less than 700 litres

 Caramel Allowed for Colouring

 Bottle Strength min. 40% ABV

 Production & Aging in Scotland

 Single Malts must be Bottled in Scotland



Distributor Bottlings


 DOB – Distributor Own Brand

 OB – Own Brand

 OB - Official Bottling

 Proprietary Bottling

 House Bottling

Independent Bottlers


  • Quite Unique to Scotland

  • Have strong relationships with Distilleries

  • Often Identify the Distillery by Name

  • If Distillery not named, Code or Hints given

  • To avoid some distillery names being used, they use “tea-spooning” to make remove the Single Malt status.


Independent Bottlers are credited for the following styles now common with Distributor Bottlings


  • Often Non-Chill Filtered

  • Often Not Coloured

  • Often Single Cask

  • Often at Cask Strength

  • Often with a little more information

  • Do their own Blends even for:

 Single Malts, Blended Malts, Blended Whiskies


Independent Bottlers Strengths

  • Flexibility:

  • Age of Whisky

  • Strength of Whisky

  • No need for a House Style

  • Often with more Rare Releases

  • More able to do Single Cask


Independent Bottlers Weaknesses

  • Poor Commercial Consistency

  • In some cases not permitted to use the Distillery’s Name

  • Small quantity of Releases/Batches



What is Peat?

 Peat is incomplete decomposition of compressed organic material, primarily vegetation.  It is found a few feet below the ground and in an   oxygen poor environment keeping the material suspended for thousands of years.  When dried it can be used a source of fuel. 

  • Differs with different Vegetation & Geography

  • Affects the water that runs through the peat that is used in the Distillery


  • Phenols up to >200 ppm

  • Phenols Industrial(rubber) vs Organic

  • Which Phenol ratings is used?

 Phenol rating of the new make is approximately 35% that of the Peated Malt

  • Peatiness falls with cask aging

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