Now we’re going to take a look at what modern day Scotch has become over the centuries. In case you haven’t read our origins of Scotch article, (which you totally should) Scotch started out as a fermented grain porridge. If made today, would be marked with a hazmat symbol and could potentially be used to power small combustion engines. Nowadays, we have a centuries honed and regulated alcoholic beverage we can safely enjoy without worry of ingesting a haphazard concoction of god knows what.
Modern Scotch has a few rules and regulations it has to follow:
- It has to be made of purely water, malted barely and other cereal grains. The grains must then be processed into a mash by the distillery. Fermented by only the naturally occurring enzymes and the only addition that can be made to that mash is yeast.
- Must be distilled to a proof less than 189.6.
- Aged for 3 years in Scotland in oak casks with a capacity of no more than 700 liters.
- The grains used to make the Scotch must be reflected in the aroma, color, and taste.
- And finally, have absolutely no additives but water or plain caramel food coloring.
Above are the big five for distilling and producing a Scotch Whisky. There are a few other rules and regulations you have to follow depending on labeling your Scotch as well. For example, when it comes to putting the age statement on a blended whisky, you must label it by its “guaranteed age” which is the youngest of the blended whiskys. So there’s no pulling a fast one by blending a 15 year with a 4 year Scotch and labeling it a 15 year whisky.
Scotch is also divided into 2 major categories, Single Malt and Single Grain.
Contrary to the what the name implies, Single Grain Scotch does not only have a single grain in the mashbill. By definition you actually have to use multiple grains. It is a Scotch that is made in a single distillery with at least one additional cereal grain to the barely that is required to be in the mashbill for it to be classified as Scotch. These additional grain(s) can be either malted or unmalted as well.
Single Malt Scotch is the one with a singular type of grain in it, malted barley. It must be made in a single distillery as well and distilled using a pot still. Those are the shiny, copper, Wonka-esque looking contraptions in the middle photograph above. One of the original still shapes and definitely the most unique looking.
And that is a brief overview of what is the required criteria for a spirit to be considered a modern day Scotch Whisky. Check out our Origins of Scotch article here. If you have any other suggestions for alcohol history articles you’d like to read about let us know in the comments below!