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Understanding Whisky Labels

How to Read a Whiskey Label


[1] Scotch Distillery Name

There are over 100 Scotch distilleries operating in Scotland and most produce an official bottling. Your mission in life is to try them all at least once!

[2] Oak Type

Scotch whiskey must be matured in oak casks for a minimum of three years. These casks may have been used previously to mature other types of spirits including sherries, American bourbon, port and various wines.

[3] Vintage or Age

If the age of the whiskey is displayed this indicates the age of the entire content or the age of the youngest whisky if it contains whiskies of various vintages. The year in which it was distilled and bottled may also be shown. Some Scotch whiskies have no age statement (NAS) and this can mean they are quite young.

[4] Scotch Region and Whiskey Type

All whiskey distilled in Scotland is legally called Scotch. The region in which the whisky was produced may be displayed. However, the regions have no legal basis and their boundaries are open to interpretation and conception.

- Single Malt Scotch is whiskey which is the product of only one distillery using only malted barley.
- Blended Scotch is whiskey which is a mix of whiskies from more than one distillery.

[5] Volume

The volume of whisky which can be filled into a bottle is controlled by laws. The most common is 70cl & 75cl but the range includes miniature 5cl and 450cl.

[6] Alcohol By Volume (ABV)

Indicates what percentage of the whiskey in the bottle is alcohol. The minimum legal requirement is 40%. Different whiskies may have different ABVs due to a number of reasons including the distillers preference and whether or not it was bottled at natural strength. If diluted to a lower strength at the time of bottling only Scottish water may be used.

The ABV gives a reasonable indication of the body of the whiskey, the way the whiskey feels in your mouth, how thick or thin:-

- Thin bodied: 40-42% ABV
- Medium bodied: 43-48% ABV
- Fuller bodied: over 48