The old school rules guiding the way to age Scotch whisky are changing, and while traditionalists are pushing back, a younger generation is interested in what can be produced by aging the alcohol in barrels previously used for tequila.
Until now, says The Daily Mail, Scotch whisky could only be matured in oak barrels previously used to age alcohol like cognac.
But now the Scotch Whisky Association is allowing barrels previously used for tequila to be used as well, breaking from tradition. This move is thought to be in an effort to reach a younger market is being embraced by many distilleries, but eschewed by traditionalists who think that “the whiskey should be judged by its color, taste and tradition.”
Karen Betts, the SWA’s chief executive, says that they need to look toward the future.
“This change is consistent with Scotch whisky’s heritage and traditions, and strengthens our foundations into the future,” Betts said.
But Gavin Hewitt, former chief executive of the SWA, is speaking for the traditionalists to say that part of the judging process is the tradition, and that means the oak barrels used for cognacs.
“Clearly if you then had a whiskey that tasted of tequila, if it used an ex-tequila cask, it would not be Scotch,” Hewitt argued.
Scotch rules are getting less strict, and we're here for it. https://t.co/a4aKgS17Dn
— Food & Wine (@foodandwine) June 17, 2019
The new SWA rules say that they still require things called scotch to taste of fermented grain mash, and not tequila, which is derived from agave. To qualify as Scotch whisky, the beverage must be “distilled from Scottish water and malted barley, and mature in the country in oak barrels for three years,” barrels that — until now — were previously used for port, bourbon, cognac, or sherry. Tequila has now been added to this list after pressure from many distillers.
Food & Wine says that scotch that has been aged in oak tequila barrels could be rolling out soon with a rewriting of the rules for aging scotch. The change opens up some new avenues, while reportedly closing off others. While the beverage can now still be called scotch if it’s finished in old tequila barrels, the rewritten rules will prohibit scotch producer Glen Moray from calling their cider cask finished whiskey, scotch.
The website Scotch Whisky explains that the new guidelines are very specific about what barrels can and can’t be used, cracking down on the addition of sweeteners and barrels which have been used with stone fruits. Under the new definition, other casks that can be used would seem to include “agave spirits (including Tequila and mezcal), Calvados, barrel-aged cachaça, shochu and baijiu, as well as some other fruit spirits.”