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 There was a huge uproar, with most voices opposing the idea and the plan was withdrawn.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.

Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
News
Campbell: ‘Sometimes you have to be economical with the truth’
newsFormer spin doctor says MPs should study tactics of leading sports figures like José Mourinho
Sport
football
Life and Style
Agretti is often compared to its relative, samphire, though is closer in taste to spinach
food + drink
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
News
Kelly Osbourne will play a flight attendant in Sharknado 2
people
News
Down-to-earth: Winstone isn't one for considering his 'legacy'
people
News
The dress can be seen in different colours
i100
Sport
Wes Brown is sent-off
football
Voices
Lance Corporal Joshua Leakey VC
voicesBeware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
Alexander McQueen's AW 2009/10 collection during Paris Fashion Week
fashionMeet the collaborators who helped create the late designer’s notorious spectacles
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: Car Sales Executive - OTE £36,000

    £12500 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This established Knaresborough ...

    Beverley James: Accounts Payable

    £23,000: Beverley James: Do you have a background in hospitality and are you l...

    Recruitment Genius: Cleaning Manager - York and Bradford

    £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The post holder is a key member of the V...

    Recruitment Genius: Vehicle Breakdown Recovery Drivers

    £18000 - £28800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Vehicle Breakdown Recovery Driv...

    Day In a Page

    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
    A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

    It's not easy being Green

    After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
    Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

    Gorillas nearly missed

    BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
    Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

    The Downton Abbey effect

    Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
    China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

    China's wild panda numbers on the up

    New census reveals 17% since 2003
    Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

    Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

    Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

    Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
    Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

    Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

    Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
    New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

    Dinner through the decades

    A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
    Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

    Philippa Perry interview

    The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

    Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

    Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
    Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

    Harry Kane interview

    The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
    The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?