In July, your favorite single malt may not be a single malt scotch whisky anymore!
In a highly controversial move, the SWA voted at the close of business yesterday by a very slim majority to prohibit re-casking of single malt whisky during maturation, beginning 1 July 2015. All currently maturing single malt stock is to be left in the casks they’re in at midnight on 1 July for the duration of their maturation. This finalizes the move that that SWA started in 2006 with the removal of the term “vatted malt” from all industry labels, naming them “malt blends”, a move widely understood today to have been taken in order to free up the term for non single cask bottlings, referred to today as ‘single malts’.
Dr. Bill Lumsden, One of the industry’s most highly respected malt masters and a pioneer in wood finishes is quoted as saying: “Finishes are finished! This will leave Glenmorangie with only two whiskys in the core range, and even those won’t be single malts!” upon hearing that the new SWA regulation. The new SWA regulation comes only one year after having abolished all age statements in the industry widely thought to be a move back to the traditional methods of whisky making.
The new regulation rolls the industry back to pre-1982, forcing producers to rely more heavily on blending different casks to achieve desired flavor profiles, forcing distillers to “get it right the first time”.
This move does not affect grain based blends (including blended malts), which may include re-casked whisky, but that fact must be clearly stated on the label. For the interim period of one year, until 1 July 2016, existing stocks of finished whisky may be sold. After this period, all single malt scotch whisky will be required to be labeled “MATURED IN ONE CASK” or be labeled “VATTING OF SINGLE CASKS”, essentially rendering most single malts on the market today vatted malts.
Additionally, the SWA was deeply divided on the question of marrying vatting of single malts after the end of maturation. It was decided, by a slim majority, that the purity of the liquid is paramount, and the practice was forbidden.
Distillers and independent bottlers have been secretly fighting this proposal for over a year, to no avail. Several distilleries threatened to move their operation out of Scotland, and one well known Speyside distillery has been rumored to be actively seeking to move its operation south of Hadrian’s Wall. Distillery officials were unavailable to comment.