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Q&A: Scotch Whisky Cask Specification

Scotch Whisky casks
The legal requirements for Scotch Whisky have been be amended to broaden the casks allowed for maturation. Here we answer your questions.

What is the Scotch Whisky Product Specification?

The Scotch Whisky Product Specification is used by HMRC to ensure compliance with the main requirements for Scotch Whisky and is essential for maintaining Scotch Whisky’s Geographical Indication status in the UK and EU.

You can read the Product Specification in detail here.

What has changed?

An amendment to the Scotch Whisky Product Specification sets out the range of casks in which Scotch Whisky can be matured or finished.

Previously, Scotch Whisky could only be matured or finished in casks that had been traditionally used in the industry - bourbon, sherry, rum , wine, beer to name just a  few. Such casks will continue to be used but some flexibility has been introduced which potentially allows for the use of casks previously used to mature other spirits, as long as a number of conditions are met.

What are the conditions?

Scotch Whisky can only be matured  or finished in new oak casks or oak casks which were previously used to mature wine, beer/ale or spirits but not if those casks were previously used to mature

  • wine, beer/ale or spirit produced from, or made with, stone fruits
  • beer/ale which has had fruit, flavouring or sweetening added after fermentation
  • spirit which has had fruit, flavouring or sweetening added after distillation

So I can’t use cider casks for maturation or finishing of Scotch Whisky?

Cider is not a beer/ale, wine or spirit, so would not be allowed.

So if the cask meets all these conditions it is now allowed?

Not necessarily.

Firstly, even if it meets the above conditions, any previous maturation must have been part of the traditional process for the alcoholic beverage concerned, and

Secondly and importantly, even if a cask does meet these requirements, all casks used must still result in a spirit which has the taste, aroma and colour generally found in Scotch Whisky.

So that would rule out maturation in gin casks?

Correct – maturation is not a traditional process to make gin.

How will the ‘taste aroma and colour’ test be determined?

The law requires Scotch Whisky to retain the colour, taste and aroma which is derived from its production process and protects the reputation of Scotch Whisky against the adoption of practices which would damage that reputation.  If a problem is identified, the SWA’s legal team will investigate whether all the legal requirements have been met and will draw upon wider expertise from the industry when required.

What if I’m not sure?

If any individual or company is considering using a cask which could be regarded as novel in the production of Scotch Whisky, it is strongly recommended to contact the SWA’s legal team at - all such enquiries will be treated in the strictest confidence.

Q&A: Scotch Whisky Cask Specification news & commentary

22 April 2024

SWA legal team toasts success in South Korea

In the first such case to use Scotch Whisky’s South Korean certification trade mark, which was granted in 2019, the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) has successfully stopped the sale of fake Scotch Whisky which misleads consumers and damages legitimate trade.

25 April 2022

Joint statement with Macaloney Brewer & Distillers Ltd

A joint statement with Macaloney Brewer & Distillers Ltd

20 January 2022

Decision over Glen Buchenbach upheld by appeal court

The SWA has won the legal case against the use of 'Glen' in Germany.

05 August 2020

SWA releases new guidance on personal investment in Scotch Whisky casks

The SWA has published guidance for individuals looking to invest in Scotch Whisky casks.

12 December 2019

Scotch Whisky secures GI protection in Cambodia

Cambodia is the latest country in which Scotch Whisky's geographical indication is officially registered.

31 May 2019

SWA legal team wins 'Team of the Year' award

The SWA has been recognised for its work to protect Scotch Whisky at an awards ceremony in Boston.