How to Read a Whiskey Label


Distillery Name

There are over 100 distilleries operating in Scotland and most produce an official distillery bottling. Your lifetime mission is to try them all at least once! Popular distillery brands include Glenfiddich, The Macallan, Lagavulin, Dalmore and Glenlivet.

Wood Type

Scotch whisky must be matured in oak casks for a minimum of three years. These oak casks may have been used previously to mature other types of spirits including sherry, bourbon, port and wine. Some labels might refer to European or American oak.

Age or Vintage

If the age of the Scotch is displayed this indicates the age of the entire content or the age of the youngest whisky if it contains whiskies of various ages. The year in which it was distilled and bottled may also be shown. Controversially, some whiskies have no age statement (NAS), which has resulted in criticism from consumers, as this often means the whisky in the bottle is very young.

Whisky Region and Whisky Type

All whisky distilled in Scotland is legally called Scotch. The region in which the whisky was produced may be shown. However, the regions (Speyside, Islay, Lowland, Highland, Island and Campbeltown) have no legal basis and their boundaries are open to interpretation. Single Malt and Single Grain is whisky which is the product of only one distillery using only malted barley. Blended Scotch is whisky which is a mix of whiskies from more than one distillery.


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

Alcohol By Volume (ABV)

Indicates what percentage of the Scotch 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 producers preference and whether or not it was bottled at cask strength. If diluted to a desired strength at the time of bottling only Scottish water may be used. The ABV gives a reasonable indication of the body of the whisky, the way the whisky feels in your mouth, how thick or thin.