What is a ‘single cask’ whisky?

Yesterday I posted this wee question on Facebook, in the hope to get a simple answer and move on:

To the whisky community:

When a distillery puts 2 bourbon barrels with Single Malt (200+ litres) into one sherry butt for finishing (this should fit), can you still bottle it as a single cask?

This proved to be not so simple. At first, the thoughts were that when, at the time of bottling it is a single cask, you can bottle it as a single cask. That makes sense and as far as most people know, that is how things are done in Scotland.

My friend Gal thought to ping an email to the SWA, the whisky watch dog, to see whether the laws and bylaws of the EU and UK have something to say about it and there is were things got interesting.

According to the SWA this is where consumer information becomes very important. Officially there is no definition of what a Single Cask bottling is, but since it is imperative that consumers get the correct information, the SWA thinks that from the moment the spirit is filled until the moment it is bottled, without any revatting, finishing or whatever is what a single cask is.

The strange thing is that even though there are no official rules or laws that state this, the SWA said they would take action to any who would break above rule. Which means all single cask whiskies with a finish, the Dalmore Constellation collection and so on. It means that most of the single cask whiskies around are actually not single cask bottlings!

Dalmore Constellation Collection. Ridiculously priced and also illegally labelled.

Dalmore Constellation Collection. Ridiculously priced and also illegally labelled.

Sander B. made a good point in stating that if there is no official definition on this subject, how can a consumer be mislead, since there is nothing defined? And secondly, if there is no definition, but the above rule cannot be broken and will be enforced, is it therefore not defined?

A simple question with a rather complex answer. I’m starting to get the feeling that English grammar is becomes very important here:

“A sherry finished single cask whisky” is something illegal, but when you write it down as a “single cask whisky finished in a sherry butt” you state that the single cask was finished, not that it is a single cask afterwards.

About Sjoerd de Haan-Kramer

I'm very interested in booze, with a focus on whisky. I like to listen to loads of music and play lots of Magic: the Gathering, and board games too. I'm married to Anneke, have two daughters Ot and Cato, a son Moos and a cat called Kikker (which means Frog, in Dutch). I live in Krommenie, The Netherlands.
This entry was posted in - News and Announcements. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to What is a ‘single cask’ whisky?

  1. Nice whisky geekery all over, I enjoyed myself yesterday. and thought about blogging about this same issue today, you saved me some words, and the need to blog.
    Good points!

  2. Tim F says:

    i suspect that the SWA is once again spouting off a knee-jerk reaction about something it doesn’t really understand. Certainly, if it realised that its statement to Gal put 90% of its paymasters in the wrong, we’d probably see a swift backtrack.

  3. Pingback: Kilchoman 2010-2015, 4yo, PX finish, 58.3% – OB for The Whisky Exchange | Malt Fascination

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s