Why Changes in Scotch Rules Allow for More Innovation

Why Changes in Scotch Rules Allow for More Innovation

Innovation is on the tip of every Scotch producer’s tongue. Now, with new rules being implemented by the European Commission, innovation just got a whole lot easier.

Regulations and Amendments

Things are about to get a bit policy heavy, but stick with us. It will be worth it in the end.

Out there in the world exists something called the Scotch Whisky Technical File. This refers to a file that holds the laws and regulations about how the subject of the file can be made. Essentially, it is how we know what defines products within the law.

Scotch has its very own technical file since it has a Geographical Indication. This is a sign that indicates that the product has a specific geographical origin that makes it unique to that origin. Champagne Wine or Roquefort cheese are two other examples within Europe.

In order for the relevant local tax authorities to ensure that the geographical indicators can be adhered to, they have a technical file to refer back to.

That’s the regulations that make Scotch, Scotch. And the Scotch Technical File recently got an amendment.

Open for Innovation

The Scotch Whisky Association is the trade body that represents Scotch producers. They have recently announced that changes have been made to the Scotch Whisky Technical File.

After a round of public consultation, the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has implemented an amendment that allows for new casks to be used in maturation.

The amendment itself states:

“The Spirit must be matured in new oak casks and/or in oak casks which have only been used to mature Wine (still or fortified) and/or Beer/Ale and/or Spirits with the exception of:

- Wine, Beer/Ale or Spirits produced from, or made with, stone fruits
- Beer/Ale to which fruit, flavouring or sweetening has been added after fermentation
- Spirits to which fruit, flavouring or sweetening has been added after distillation

and where such previous maturation is part of the traditional processes for those Wines, Beers/Ales or Spirits. Regardless of the type of cask used, the resulting product must have the traditional colour, taste and aroma characteristics of Scotch Whisky.”

What that means for producers

Essentially, this opens up a whole new world of maturation options for Scotch producers. They can now use casks that have previously been used to mature Tequila, Shochu, Calvados and Mezcal, amongst others.

There are still some exclusions to the regulations, including barrel-aged Gin and cider.

This is great news for the industry and allows for a lot more innovation going forward. Distilleries have been adventuring with their maturation techniques in recent years and this gives them even more scope to do so.

IPA, Rum, even Cider casks (although that’s still not technically allowed) have all been used to make some really interesting malts. These new regulations, or rather the loosening of old regulations, mean that new flavour profiles will be created and we’ll learn more about just how versatile Whisky can be.

We can only hope that Mezcal casks bring in some new smoky Whiskies, some fruity Calvados influence creeps into the Whisky market and the spiciness of a Tequila cask enters the foray too!

If we think back to when distilling first came to Scotland, it is clear that the craft has come a long way. Sherry casks have only been in use for maturation since the late 1800s, and even before that there were innovations and changes going on in how Whisky was made.

Flavour is King

While these new regulations give producers more scope to experiment and be creative, flavour is going to be first and foremost in their minds. Experimentation is all well and good, but the end product needs to be enjoyable.

It will probably take a few years to see results, but you should be on the lookout for Whiskies with interesting maturation styles coming out. The flavours will vary depending on what cask is used, but this opens up a whole new world of what Scotch will taste like in years to come.

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