Just like Tequila, Cognac, Bourbon and more recently, Sherry, the naming of Scotch Whisky is legally regulated and can only come from a certain geographical location.

Scotch whisky can only be made in Scotland. Hence, any whisky made in Australia cannot be called Scotch, and is simply whisky.

Geographical location is not the only criteria for a spirit to be called Scotch whisky however, here are the other requirements [1]:

1) Scotch whisky must be distilled to a maximum alcohol content of 94.8% ABV. Distilling it to a higher purity than this will remove too much flavour, essentially making a vodka

2)Must be matured in oak casks not exceeding 700 litres. There is no minimum cask size

3) Must be matured only in Scotland, the oak barrel can’t leave the country!

4) The oak barrel must be either new or used to mature wine (still or fortified) or beer or spirits. The majority of Scotch Whiskies are matured in ex-Bourbon casks. Casks which have contained stone fruit products are not permitted. Beer casks which have had fruit or sweetener added after fermentation is complete are not permitted. Spirit casks which have had fruit, flavours or sweetener added after distillation are also not permitted [2].

5) Must be matured for a minimum of 3 years. This is different to Australia which is 2 years

6) Scotch whisky must be made from malted barley and yeast, but can also contain other cereal grains. Note that if the whisky is Malt Scotch Whisky or single malt whisky, it cannot contain other grains.

7) Fermenting with additional added enzymes are not permitted, the fermentation must get its necessary enzymes from malted barley.

8) No other materials can be added except for water and caramel colouring E150a, which is basically burnt sugar. It might come as a surprise, but many of the best known brands of Scotch whisky are actually coloured with this additive. Make sure to look out for brands which say natural colour or no added colour

9) Must be bottled at 40% ABV or higher

Within Scotch whisky, there is also finer detail provided which protects certain places within Scotland. These areas are Campbeltown (no, not the area southwest of Sydney), Islay (pronounced eye-la), Lowland, Highland and Speyside.

Within Scotch Whisky, there are many categories, we will delve into the differences in another article:

  • Single Malt Scotch Whisky
  • Single Grain Scotch Whisky
  • Blended Malt Scotch Whisky
  • Blended Grain Scotch Whisky
  • Blended Scotch Whisky

Labelling requirements for Scotch Whisky are also very strict. For instance, it is illegal to have a whisky called 2008 or even mention 2008 in relation to distilling if the whisky was not distilled in 2008. This would trick people into thinking the whisky was older than it really is. Using numbers which trick the consumer into thinking the release is limited in batch size are also not permitted.

The age statement on Scotch Whisky must refer to the youngest whisky in the mixture. Average age is not permitted.

Just because Scotch Whisky can’t be made in Australia doesn’t mean that Australian’s can’t make excellent whisky! Sullivans Cove won world’s best Single Malt at the 2014 World Whisky Awards and world’s best Single Malt Single Cask in 2018 and 2019[3]. Archie Rose in Sydney has also won world’s best Rye Whisky in 2020[4]. Since the laws surrounding whisky production are different in Australia, some really creative whiskies are being created such as casks made from Australian native woods other than oak and innovative casks types such as Illawarra Plum cask whisky which Headlands Distilling Co., will release in 2021.

If you would like to learn more about the Scotch Whisky requirements directly from the source, have a read of the official UK government document which can be found here:



[1] https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/236297/scotch-whisky-technical-file-130829.pdf

[2] Scotch Whisky amended cask types https://www.whiskyadvocate.com/scotch-whisky-technical-file-amended-cask-types/

[3] https://sullivanscove.com/the-distillery/awards/

[4] http://www.worldwhiskiesawards.com/winner/best-australian-rye-world-whiskies-awards-2020

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