Below gives a quick guide to understanding Whisky labels all whisky labels are governed by the Scottish Whisky Association.
Reading Whisky Labels
1 Distillery Name
Scotland has over 100 operational distilleries and there are many whiskies for sale from closed distilleries. The name of whisky distillery is usually the same as the location normally the name of town, village or island but not exclusively.
2 Cask Type
To be classed as a Scottish Whisky the whisky must have spent at least 3 years maturing in an oak cask. The 2 most common types are used Bourbon and Sherry casks however Port and Wine are also heavily used. As the whisky market develops, distilleries will experiment with other types of cask such as rum to develop new and exciting whisky tastes.
3 The age of the whisky
A blended whisky will show the youngest whisky used in blending, a single malt will show the entire content. The bottling date may also be shown. This is not that important for whiskies as they no longer mature in the bottle. If no vintage is shown it is likely the whisky is of a young age.
4 Type & Region of Whisky
The region of where a distillery is located is usually shown. Any whisky distilled in Scotland can be called scotch. The regions are commonly known as Highland, Lowland, Speyside, Island, Islay and Campbletown. There are no distinct geographical boundaries and are open to interpretation.
- Single Malt is pure whisky which is produced by one distillery using malted barley only.
- Blended Whisky is where various single malt whiskies are mixed together to create a blend.
5 Alcohol by Volume (ABV)
As the title suggests, this shows the percentage of alcohol contained in the whisky bottle. To be classed as Scotch whisky the minimum requirement is 40%. For the purposes of distribution most whiskies are 40% and often Scottish water is added to dilute the whisky at bottling. Cask strength whiskies often have a higher content however depending on age and quality of the whisky it is not always noted in the taste. Cask strength whisky can be as high as 75% however most range between 45% & 65%.