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HMRC internal manual

Spirits Production Manual

HM Revenue & Customs
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Law, Policy and Application - Scotch Whisky


(1) It shall be unlawful -

(a) to produce in Scotland; or
(b) to keep in Scotland for the purpose of maturation; or 
(c) to keep or use in Scotland for the purpose of blending,

a distillate of spirits produced as described in the definition of whisky contained insection 3(1) of this Act unless it is, or as the case may be, has been produced as described in any definition of Scotch whisky contained in an order under that section –The Scotch Whisky Act 1988 s1 

In this Act -

Scotch whisky means such whisky (distilled and matured in Scotland) as conforms to the definition of Scotch whisky contained in an order made under this subsection by the ministers.- The Scotch Whisky Act 1988 s3(1)

For the purpose of the Scotch Whisky Act 1988 ‘Scotch Whisky’ means whisky –

(a) which has been produced at a distillery in Scotland from water and malted barley (to which only whole grains of other cereals may be added) all of which have been -

(i) processed at that distillery into a mash;
(ii) converted into a fermentable substrate only by endogenous enzyme systems; and
(iii) fermented only by the action of yeast;

(b) which has been distilled at an alcoholic strength by volume of less than 94.8 percent so that the distillate has an aroma and taste derived from raw materials used in, and the method of, its production;

(c) which has been matured in an excise warehouse in Scotland in oak casks of a capacity not exceeding 700 litres, the period of that maturation being not less than 3 years;

(d) which retains the colour, aroma and taste derived from the raw materials used in the method of its production and maturation; and

(e) to which no other substance other than water and spirit caramel has been added - The Scotch Whisky Order 1990 s3

Policy and Application

The EU permitted the UK to introduce legislation enhancing the ‘whisky’ definition to define ‘scotch whisky’, a product of specific geographical designation within the context of the EU regulation.

The ‘Scotch whisky’ definition contained in the Scotch Whisky Act 1988 was replaced by a further enhanced definition contained in the Scotch Whisky Order 1990. This order also brought the provisions of the Scotch Whisky Act 1988 into force.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) owns the legislation that defines Scotch whisky. Any enquiries relating to the definition should be directed tothem.

Scotch Whisky referred to in declarations made for revenue purposes (for example, form W21 or certfifcates of age) should conform to the legal definitions.