My Round: Nip tuck

The labelling of Scotch is in need of a facelift. But will the recommended surgery give the whisky a new lease of life?

It's official, we now live in the era of new-style unpredictable weather. In honour of the phenomenon, this is a cover-all-bets article. Below: three sunny rosés with which to bask in the sunshine. Here: news from the world of the greatest spirit-warmer on Earth: Scotch whisky.

Among the public, Scotch whisky may be the most accurately identified of all geographically delimited spirits. Everyone knows that it comes from Scotland, with the possible exception of some Indian drinks companies, which make a product they call Scotch and which is... well, I'd try to describe it but that might make me think about the one time I drank it. And the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA), in co-operation with the government, has largely sensible and clear regulations about how Scotch - which was first defined in UK law in 1909, and most recently amended in 1988 - is labelled.

Those labelling regulations may now be in for a major shake-up. The SWA has been holding discussions about a new scheme for describing its products. The deal ain't done yet but it's looking like the new categories will be five-fold: single malt, single grain, blended malt, blended, and blended single-grain.

The technical ins and outs are detailed and complex, but the item of particular note is the attempt to clarify the unique position of single malt - and distinguish it unambiguously from everything else. The term will mean, as at present, the product of a single distillery unblended with anything else. Blended single malt, at present called vatted malt, means single-malt whiskies from two or more distilleries blended together. Both these drinks, as now, will contain only Scotch whiskies made from malted barley. The others will contain some proportion of other cereals, which are cheaper and easier to work with.

The reconsideration of terminology has been prompted, in part, by a minor earthquake in the industry earlier this year. Diageo, owner of several of the most famous names in Scotland, announced it was going to relabel its Cardhu 12 Year Old Single Malt as a vatted malt called Cardhu Pure Malt. There was a simple reason for the change: the success of Cardhu meant the distillery could not produce enough of it, especially for thirsty export markets such as Spain. There was a huge uproar, with most voices opposing the idea and the plan was withdrawn. But it had a good effect: it got the industry thinking about how to accommodate innovation and reward commercial success while also protecting the integrity of all its products.

I saw the urgency of these needs last June, when I went on a "whisky course" that Diageo runs for industry professionals and the occasional journo, at its Royal Lochnagar distillery near Balmoral. In two days I learnt more about single malt than I had learnt in my entire life, and one of the chief lessons was that every single distillery really and truly is unique. (Every single barrel is unique, but that's a story for another day.) Each still and each production method gives its own character to the whisky and so, more importantly, does each master distiller. The combination of those variables makes each whisky what it is - and what it's valued for by consumers. Change them at your peril.

This is not to say that every single malt is outstanding or even exceptional. That isn't the point. The point is variety. People's tastes lead them to one distillery or another, one style or another. They are entitled to know exactly what they're buying, and the new regulations will make that easier - once the terms have had time to settle in. Assuming they're adopted, that is. But it seems only to be a matter of time. And if you heard it here first, you can start thinking about making the adjustment.

Top Corks: Indian-summery rosés

Château de Sours 2003 £7.99, Majestic A consistently reliable pink, with deep colour and muscular tannins underpinning toothsome red-berry fruit. A miniature red wine, really.

Amethystos Rosé 2002, Domaine Constantin Lazaridis £7.99, Oddbins Subtle and exciting stuff, herbal notes harmonising with odd, winning berry flavours. Versatile for pairing with food.

Bluff Hill Rosé NV £7.99, Marks & Spencer Charming and good-value sparkler from New Zealand, with just 30 per cent of Pinot Noir but a good hit of that inimitable Pinot flavour.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Tour Drivers - UK & European

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity to join a is a...

    Old Royal Naval College: ORNC Visitor Experience Volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary work: Old Royal Naval College: Join our team of friendly volu...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service / Sales Assistant

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This airport parking organisation are looking...

    Recruitment Genius: PCV Bus Drivers

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Do you enjoy bus driving and are looking for ...

    Day In a Page

    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project