A Global Standard for Autonomous Vehicle Moral Dilemmas?

By Clark A Belanger



There is much confusion surrounding the naming of whisky, including the proper spelling of the name itself: whisky or whiskey. While the differences in the spelling of whisk(e)y can be explained through history and tradition, many of the names and titles that whisky is given around the world are defined by national laws as well as international trade agreements. This post will look specifically at the legal naming requirements for four of the world’s largest whisky producers: Scotland (Scotch), Ireland (Irish Whiskey), and United States (Bourbon).




Scottish Whisky, typically referred to as “Scotch,” is referenced in history dating back as far as 1494.[1] Throughout its history, Scotch has developed strict guidelines relating both to its legal definition and labeling.[2] Most recently, the Scotch Whisky Regulations (SWR) of 2009 defined and regulated the production, labeling, packaging, and advertising of Scotch Whisky in the United Kingdom.[3] Furthermore, international trade agreements with the United Kingdom have the effect of making many of the provisions of the SWR binding in various other countries in addition to the United Kingdom.[4] Under the SWR, “Scotch Whisky” is defined as whisky that is:


·       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:

·       Processed at that distillery into a mash

·       Converted at that distillery to a fermentable substrate only by endogenous enzyme systems

·       Fermented at that distillery only by adding yeast

·       Distilled at an alcoholic strength by volume of less than 94.8% (190 US proof)

·       Wholly matured in an excise warehouse in Scotland in oak casks of a capacity not exceeding 700 litres (185 US gal; 154 imp gal) for at least three years

·       Retaining the colour, aroma, and taste of the raw materials used in, and the method of, its production and maturation

·       Containing no added substances, other than water and plain (E150A) caramel colouring

·       Comprising a minimum alcoholic strength by volume of 40% (80 US proof)[5]


Irish Whiskey


Irish Whiskey also has a long history, dating back as far as 1405.[6] The specific history of Irish Whiskey is somewhat difficult to parse, due to the fact that Irish Whiskey was not too regulated during much of its history.[7] Today, Irish whiskey is a protected term by European Geographical Indication (GI) under Regulation (EC) No 110/2008.[8] Most recently, the production, labeling and marketing of Irish Whiskey must be verified by the Irish revenue authorities as conforming with the Department of Agriculture's 2014 technical file for Irish whiskey.[9] Under these regulations, “Irish Whiskey” must meet the following requirements:


·       Irish whiskey must be distilled on the island of Ireland (comprising the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland) from a mash of malted cereals with or without whole grains of other cereals and which has been:

o   saccharified by the diastase of malt contained therein, with or without other natural enzymes;

o   fermented by the action of yeast;

o   distilled at an alcoholic strength of less than 94.8% alcohol by volume in such a way that the distillate has an aroma and taste derived from the materials used;

o   subject to the maturation of the final distillate for at least three years in wooden casks, such as oak, not exceeding 700 litres (185 US gal; 154 imp gal) capacity

o   The distillate, to which only water and plain caramel colouring may be added (E150a), retains its colour, aroma and taste derived from the production process.

·       Irish whiskey is to have a minimum alcoholic by volume content of 40%.

·       Individual technical specifications for the three varieties of Irish whiskey, "single pot still", "single malt", "single grain", and "blended" whiskey (a mix of these two or more of these varieties) are also outlined in the technical file. The use of the term "single" in the aforementioned varieties being permissible only if the whiskey is totally distilled on the site of a single distillery.

·       Maturation only takes place on the island of Ireland.[10]


American Bourbon


Unlike the other countries referenced in this post, the United States is known for several distinct types of whiskey. Therefore, we will only focus on “Bourbon,” because its legal definition is commonly a point of consumer confusion.  The earliest reference to Bourbon was in 1785.[11] At that time, American Whiskey was recognized by a marking on its barrel that identified its county of origin. However, under current laws, “Bourbon” does not necessarily need to be produced in Bourbon County.

            Under current trade agreements, the name “Bourbon” is reserved for whisky products made in the United States.[12] However, some sellers in various countries still label their products as “Bourbon” and while these products are not required to conform to all the regulations that apply within the United States, they still must be made in the United States.[13] Under the United States Federal Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits, “Bourbon” produced for United States consumption must meet the following requirements:


·       Produced in the United States

·       Made from a grain mixture that is at least 51% corn

·       Aged in new, charred oak containers

·       Distilled to no more than 160 proof (80% alcohol by volume)

·       Entered into the container for aging at no more than 125 proof (62.5% alcohol by volume)

·       Bottled at 80 proof or more (40% alcohol by volume).[14]

[1] Scotch Whisky Association. Story of Scotch: History (last viewed Apr. 17, 2019) https://www.scotch-whisky.org.uk/discover/story-of-scotch/.

[2] Devine, T. M. Clanship to Crofters' War: The social transformation of the Scottish Highlands Manchester University Press. (2013).

[3] Scotch Whisky Regulation Guidance 2009. United Kingdom (Oct. 30, 2009).


[4] Whisky Branding Deal Reached. BBC News (Dec. 4, 2003). http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/scotland/3289181.stm.

[5] Scotch Whisky Regulation Guidance 2009. United Kingdom (Oct. 30, 2009).


[6] Whisky or Whiskey. Masters of Malt. (last viewed Apr. 17, 2019). https://www.masterofmalt.com/c/guides/whisky-or-whiskey/.

[7] Id.

[8] REGULATION (EC) No 110/2008 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL. (Jan. 15, 2008). https://www.fsai.ie/uploadedFiles/Reg110_2008.pdf.

[9] Revenue Verification of Irish Whiskey. Irish Tax and Customs. (last viewed Apr. 17, 2019). https://www.revenue.ie/en/companies-and-charities/excise-and-licences/index.aspx.

[10] Id.

[11] Kentucky Bourbon Timeline. Kentucky Distillers Association (last viewed Apr. 17, 2019). http://www.tiki-toki.com/timeline/entry/151454/The-History-of-Kentucky-Bourbon/#vars!date=1685-11-23_03:58:11!.

[12]27 C.F.R. sec. 5.1. https://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?SID=57b5394734f53825e7e126b2cf0883bb&mc=true&node=se27.1.5_11&rgn=div8.

[13] Id.

[14] 27 C.F.R. sec. 5.22(b). https://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?SID=57b5394734f53825e7e126b2cf0883bb&mc=true&node=se27.1.5_122&rgn=div8.

#ClarkABelanger #Whisky #Whiskey #Scotland #Ireland #UnitedStates