What’s in a name?

Good day readers, the topic of today is one that is constantly asked about by co-workers, friends and even some people in the beverage industry. Why is a Single Malt called a Single Malt or a Blended Malt, a Blended Malt? What’s the difference between Whisky without an ‘E’ and Whiskey with? And does Bourbon have to be made in Kentucky to be called a Bourbon? These and a few more questions will be sorted out with some definitions and meanings that can be referenced whenever you wish. Enjoy!

Bourbon Whiskey (Federal Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits):

  1. Produced in the United States. 2. Made from a grain mixture that is at least 51% corn. 3. Aged in new, charred oak barrels. 4. Distilled to no more than 160 (U.S.) proof (80% alcohol by volume), Entered into the barrel for aging at no more than 125 proof (62.5% alcohol by volume). 5. Bourbon does not have to come from Kentucky, just the US.
A portion of a barrel and a seared french oak stave used in the barrels for flavor.

A portion of a barrel and a seared french oak stave used in the barrels for flavor.

Irish Whiskey (Irish Whiskey Act of 1980):

  1. Irish whiskey must be distilled and aged on the island of Ireland; that is, either in the Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland. 2. The contained spirits must be distilled to an alcohol by volume level of less than 94.8% from a yeast-fermented mash of cereal grains (saccharified by the diastase of malt contained therein, with or without other natural diastases) in such a way that the distillate has an aroma and flavor derived from the materials used. 3. The product must be aged for at least three years in wooden casks of a capacity not exceeding 700 liters (185 US gal; 154 imp gal). 4. If the spirits comprise a blend of two or more such distillates, the product is referred to as a “blended” Irish whiskey

Tennessee Whiskey (House Bill 1084):

  1. A straight Bourbon Whiskey authorized to be produced only in the State of Tennessee. 2. Maple charcoal filtering. 3. Made from a grain mixture that is at least 51% corn. 4. Aged in new, charred oak barrels. 5. Distilled to no more than 160 (U.S.) proof (80% alcohol by volume), Entered into the barrel for aging at no more than 125 proof (62.5% alcohol by volume).

Scotch Whisky (Scotch Whisky Regulations 2009):

  1. Produced at a distillery in Scotland from water and malted barley (to which only whole grains of other cereals may be added). 2. Distilled at an alcoholic strength by volume of less than 94.8%. 3. Matured in a warehouse in Scotland in oak casks of a capacity not exceeding 700 liters for at least 3 years. 4. Containing no added substances, other than water and caramel coloring (E150A). 5. Minimum alcoholic strength by volume of 40%

17yr DoubleWood

Single Malt:

Single malt Scotch whisky means a Scotch whisky produced from only water and malted barley at a single distillery by batch distillation in pot stills.

Single Grain:

Single grain Scotch whisky means a Scotch whisky distilled at a single distillery but, in addition to water and malted barley, may involve whole grains of other malted or unmalted cereals.

Blended malt Scotch whisky:

A blend of two or more single malt Scotch whiskies from different distilleries.

Blended grain Scotch whisky:

A blend of two or more single grain Scotch whiskies from different distilleries.

Blended Scotch whisky:

A blend of one or more single malt Scotch whiskies with one or more single grain Scotch whiskies.

Blended Malt (Formerly named Vatted malt/Pure malt but legally prohibited since SWR 2009):

A blend of single malts from more than one distillery (possibly with differing ages). Blended malts contain only malt whiskies—no grain whiskies—and are usually distinguished from other types of whisky by the absence of the word “single” before “malt” on the bottle, and the absence of a distillery name. The age of the vat is that of the youngest of the original ingredients. e.g. Johnnie Walker Green

Blended:

Blended Scotch whiskies contain both malt whisky and grain whisky. Producers combine the various malts and grain whiskies to produce a consistent brand style. e.g. Ballantine’s

Independent bottling:

Many malt distilleries sell whisky by the cask for blending, and sometimes to private buyers. Whisky from such casks are sometimes bottled as a single malt by independent bottling firms such as Signatory, Alexander Murray & Co. and Gordan and Macphail.

Kirkland Glenlivet 40 Year Single Malt Scotch bottled by Alexander Murray and Co

Brandy:

A spirit produced by distilling grapes or other fruit. In the European Union, there are regulations that require products labelled as brandy, except “grain brandy”, to be produced exclusively from the distillation or redistillation of grape-based wine or grape-based “wine fortified for distillation” and aged a minimum of six months in oak. In the US, brandy that has been produced from other than grape wine must be labelled with a clarifying description of the type of brandy production such as “peach brandy”, “fruit brandy”, “dried fruit brandy”, or “pomace brandy”, and brandy that has not been aged in oak for at least two years must be labelled as “immature”.

Cognac:

Named after the town of Cognac in France, is a variety of brandy. In order for it to be considered a true cru, the wine must be at least 90% Ugni blanc, Folle blanche and Colombard, while up to 10% of the grapes used can be Folignan, Jurançon blanc, Meslier St-François, Sélect, Montils or Sémillon. Cognacs which are not to carry the name of a cru are freer in the allowed grape varieties, needing at least 90% Colombard, Folle blanche, Jurançon blanc, Meslier Saint-François, Montils, Sémillon, or Ugni blanc, and up to 10% Folignan or Sélect. Grades of V.S. (at least 2 years of age), V.S.O.P./Reserve (At least 4 years of age), XO/ Napoleon/Hors d’Age (at least 6 years of age) signify the age of the spirit.

We hope that clears things up a little bit. And as always, if you have any questions, feel free to reach out to us via email or any of our social media platforms for answers. Slainte!

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