A set of guidelines for the production of whisky in the UK and Ireland have been launched by national body the British Standards Institution (BSI).
The new voluntary standard was developed with support from members of the Scottish, Welsh, English and Irish whisky industries and is designed to improve the overall quality of whisky being produced in the UK and Ireland, for both domestic and international sale.
It offers advice on the production process and expected 'organoleptic characteristics' including colour, aroma, and flavour, as well as detailing analytical parameters that companies can use to assess the quality and 'authenticity' of their whiskies. It also incorporates some elements that are prescribed in law, such as that a whisky should be aged for a minimum of three years in wooden containers and that it should be bottled at no lower than 40% ABV.
Production requirements and protections exist in UK law for single malt Scotch whisky and single malt Welsh whisky, while a technical file published in Ireland in 2014 lays out requirements for styles of Irish whiskey including single malt and pot still. Meanwhile, the English Whisky Guild has submitted a geographical indication (GI) application for English single malt whisky to the UK government and is awaiting its outcome.
BSI said the new national standard, which is the first of its kind, would support distillers to focus on "the quality of product rather than the minimum regulatory requirements". It added that the standard could also be used by companies in other parts of the world to inform their own whisky production.
Scott Steedman, BSI's director-general of standards, said: “The new standard for whisky effectively bottles the historic tradition of whisky distilling for the benefit of consumers and the industry. We recognise that distillers take great pride in their craft and the unique characteristics that define a quality whisky and we are delighted to have worked with whisky experts from across the UK and Ireland to produce a consensus standard on what good looks like for this world-renowned product.”
The new standard will be managed by a dedicated technical committee overseen by BSI, which may revise and update the standard as required based on feedback from producers and regulators.