CRAFT WHISKY CODE
Transparency and no short cuts
This is published with the kind permission from Pär Caldenby from Smögen Whisky. Thanks a lot!
ON TERMINOLOGY AND DESCRIPTIONS OF PROVENANCE, PROCESS AND CASKS IN MARKETING OF WHISKY
Manx Whisky Company undertakes to adhere to this Craft Whisky Code as of the 1st of September 2020 and to publicly announce this fact on labels, gift boxes, websites or equivalent information channels.
The terminology laid down in this Craft Whisky Code is to be used for all marketing purposes on labels, gift cartons and boxes, product data sheets and any other form of expression used, to the extent the marketing refers to or describes origin, process, and the different oak casks used for maturing our whisky. All European whisky shall further meet and adhere to the basic requirements as laid down in Regulation (EC) 110/2008.
The overall purpose of this Craft Whisky Code is to clarify and advice the end consumer and other recipients of the marketing. This shall be done through clarity in the communication of how a whisky has been produced and matured. It is to be noted that there is no requirement to always, in all circumstances, make use of every term that may apply to a certain whisky, for instance that it is based on a particular strain of barley or that the barley malt is peated.
The basic principle for all marketing activities is that they shall be truthful, clear and correct. They may not be or risk being perceived as misleading, whether due to what is expressed or – in its entirety or in part only – what is withheld. For all marketing of alcoholic beverages there are further statutory limitations of how it may be shaped or formed.
All and any whisky producers may – without making any changes or conditions – associate themselves to this Craft Whisky Code and apply it, through publicly and clearly stating this fact on packages, labels, websites and similar marketing channels.
1. Provenance, process and character
The provenance of a product and the type of production process applied can often be useful for producer and consumer alike, when it comes to relating to a product or to assess its character or qualitative aspects. In order to avoid misleading terms, the following definitions are to be applied, with the meaning indicated herein.
”Whisky”/”Whiskey” – a distilled spirit in accordance with Regulation (EC) 110/2008, which shall further have a strength of at least 46 percent alcohol by volume and be produced solely from grain (-s), water and yeast, being matured for at least three years on oak casks of a volume up to and including 700 litres. In production, the addition of defoaming agents is not allowed, while at or prior to the bottling stage, active chill filtration and/or the addition of spirit caramel (E150) may not be undertaken; all these actions would affect the character of the whisky.
”Raw spirit”/”New Make” – a spirit that meets all the requirements for ”whisky”, but that has not been matured in oak casks. A spirit that has been matured in oak casks but for a period of less than three years shall instead be termed ”Malt spirit” or ”Spirit drink”, depending on the base ingredient used. Neither spirit here referred to may in any way, in whole or in part, be described through the use of the term ”whisky”, i.e. as with ”white whisky”.
”Malt whisky” – apart from meeting the requirements for ”whisky”, this term may be used only where the base ingredient is barley, which has been malted (i.e. ”malt”/”malted barley”). The production process is to be carried out solely through the use of natural diastase in the malted barley, without the addition of artificial or otherwise added enzymes.
”Manx whisky”/”…malt whisky” – in addition to fulfilling the requirements for ”whisky” and/or ”malt whisky”, respectively, the production process as of the mashing in of the malt or grains and to the maturation and bottling shall be performed in the stated country of origin. It may not be referenced or hinted at specific raw materials or oak casks being of the same country of origin unless this is a completely true statement of fact.
”Single whisky” – (with similar designations) is a term used to relate to a whisky that is not a malt whisky but that has been produced at one distillery only.
The name of the distillery – the use of the name of the distillery as a trade mark may only relate to whisky that has been produced solely at the distillery and in accordance to the aforementioned definition of whisky (or malt whisky). When bottling and marketing other whisky than that, the trade marks of the distillery and/or whisky, or a trade mark readily interchangeable therewith, may not be used so as to risk causing confusion as to the source or character of the other whisky.
”Blended whisky” – (with similar terms) relates to a whisky that contains both malt whisky and other whiskies. It may be combined with the term ”Single” only where all whiskies used in the blend have been produced at the same distillery. It may also be combined with the term ”malt” only where all whiskies used fulfill the requirements set for a whisky to be termed a ”malt whisky”.
Barley strain – to the extent that the strain of barley used in a whisky is indicated in the marketing, it shall correctly relate to the name of the strain and, where it does not constitute 100 percent of the barley used, the proportion to which it has been used in the whisky. For example, the name ”Optic” may be used for a whisky entirely based on that strain, while ”Optic, 47 %” can be used to describe a whisky where only a part of the barley used is of the strain mentioned. When using more than one strain of barley, all strains employed should be named, with their respecive proportions. Geographical origin for barley may be used in the same manner as for strains of barley, or not at all.
Phenol count – to the extent that whisky or new make is based, entirely or in part, on peated (or smoked) malt, this may be indicated, with or without simultaneously indicating the count, measured in parts per million/”ppm, of phenols measured in the whisky or malt whisky; alternatively, the phenol count in the malt used may be indicated, provided it is clearly stated that the count relates to the malted barley and not the resulting whisky. The count indicated shall include all phenols resulting from the smoke drying/kilning of the green malt, regardless of the type of phenol. Any rounding off of the figure should be made downwards.
”Peated malt”/”Peaty malt”/”Peaty (malt) whisky” – shall refer solely to smoke dried malt, or ditto whisky/malt whisky, where only peat has been used as the source of the smoke and phenols employed during the drying/kilning process of the malting of the barley.
”Smoked malt”/”Smoky malt”/”Smoky (malt) whisky” – shall refer solely to smoke dried malt, or ditto whisky/malt whisky, where not only peat but also other smoky fuels has been used as the source of the smoke and phenols employed during the drying/kilning process of the malting of the barley. It is also possible to add a complete and correct definition of the source fuel of the smoke, for example as ”peat and juniper smoked”.
”Unpeated malt”/”Unpeated whisky” – refers to a malt and/or a whisky or malt whisky that does not contain any phenols from any form of smoking or kilning.
”Pot still” – refers to a whisky or malt whisky (or its process) that has been produced solely in one or more copper pot stills, where there are no reflux plates or bottoms, or similar details, which increase the grade of purification of the spirit vapour during the distillation process.
”Column still”/”Continuous still” – refers to a whisky or malt whisky (or its process) that has been produced solely in a still where there are reflux plates or bottoms, or similar details, that increase or contribute to the degree of purification of the spirit vapour during the distillation process.
2. Oak casks and maturation
The final character of a whisky depends to a substantial degree on the maturation process and the oak casks used. There are a number of different types of oak casks, from entirely new (”virgin”) casks to more or less used ones, whom all can be employed in the making of a high quality whisky. That the different types of oak casks are described and termed correctly is of interest to the industry and consumer alike.
To the extent that a particular type of cask is indicated – which is always voluntary – the marketing shall correctly state the appropriate term for the cask (or casks) and, where the stated cask type does not constitute 100 percent of the casks used, also the proportion to which the stated cask type is used, as well as the other types of casks that have been employed for the whisky in question. Any risk of confusion for consumers and other users shall be avoided, which is why equal or very similar typefaces and types normally shall be used for the entire description. As an example, to term or refer to a whisky as (solely) ”Sherry [cask] matured”, when it has not in all of its volume been matured in and derived character from former Sherry casks, shall not be allowed.
When using used casks such as former Sherry casks, the cask may not contain any residual free liquid such as Sherry – or any equivalent – when it is filled with new make or whisky. The influence on the maturaing whisky shall come from the oak cask, without any addition of free or pressure imparted liquid of any form, except water.
The age of a whisky may be indicated and shall always relate to the youngest whisky used in a vatting or blend of a whisky. Alternatively, the age of the whisky in all the casks employed may be indicated, provided that the information also includes the proportions of the constituent whiskies of varying ages. The guiding principle is to always avoid the risk of misleading presentations, where a whisky may be perceived as older than the youngest constituent part is.
2.1 Matured in …
”Sherry cask (-s)” (including all volume/type indicated casks, for instance ”Sherry butt” etc) – may be used to describe a whisky that has been matured solely in casks that have previously contained Sherry of some specification. The type of Sherry previously used may be indicated as clarification, where it has been used throughout for all the casks.
”Bourbon cask (-s)” (including volume/type indicated casks, i.e. ”Bourbon barrel”) – may be used in the same manner as for ”Sherry cask”, ref immediately above.
”Sauternes cask (-s)” (including all volume/type indicated casks, i.e. ”Sauternes barrique”, and is applicable also in the same manner for other casks with a spirit or wine provenance, such as for instance Madeira, Port, Rioja, Chablis, Champagne, Amarone, Cognac, Calvados etc) – may be used in the same manner as for ”Sherry cask”, ref immediately above.
A clarification may be made for ”new”/”first fill”/”fresh” and/or ”refilled” casks, in order to closer specify the cask type and its history of preceding fills. An example of such clarifications are ”new Sherry casks”, or ”refill Sherry”. Where one specific degree of filling history, such as ”second fill Sherry” is indicated, all casks used in that bottling shall be of the same type and filling history, or else the complete description for the casks used shall be described.
2.2 Oak species and origin etc.
The species and origin of the oak in the casks has a very significant importance on the influence on the whisky during maturation, with American white oak (with hybrides) being the most common species and European (pedunculate) oak being the main alternative, though there are also casks made from European (sessile) oak and Japanese oak. Oak trees of the same species exist in a number of countries, which means that only the country of origin – for example ”French oak” – can refer to pedunculate as well as sessile oak. As for marketing purposes, it may however be regarded as correct even only with the sole descriptor of country or region of origin (for example ”Limousin” or ”Ozark” for the specific forest region). Incorrect or confusing terms or descriptors must however be avoided. Against this background, the following terms are therefore to be used on labels and in all other marketing material.
”White oak” – refers to casks made solely from the species Quercus Alba or hybrides thereof, regardless of geographic origin.
”Pedunculate oak” – refers to casks made solely from the species Quercus Robur, regardless of geographic origin.
”Sessile oak” – refers to casks made solely from the species Quercus Petraea, regardless of geographic origin.
”Mongolian oak” – refers to casks made solely from the species Quercus Mongolica, regardless of geographic origin.
”Japanese oak”/”Mizunara (oak)” – refers to casks made solely from the species Quercus Crispula, from Japan.
”French”/”Spanish”/”American”/”European”/”Swedish” etc oak – when stating a geographic origin, it shall refer to casks made solely from oak that has grown within the specified country or area.
”New oak”/”Virgin oak” – refers solely to casks and oak that have previously never been used.
”Fresh”/”First fill”/”New” – including a specification of the history of the cask, this refers solely to casks that have previously been used for other beer-, wine- or spirit drinks than whisky and that have not previosuly at any occasion contained whisky. Examples are ”New Sherry cask” and ”First fill Sherry cask”, which terms essentially mean the same thing.
”Refill” – is used to describe casks that have previously been used one or more times to mature whisky. May be combined with or specified by the description of the previous incumbent and number of fill, provided this is made clearly and unambiguously. Examples are ”Refill Sherry cask” and ”Second refill Sherry”; it shall be noted that the latter term can be described also as ”Third fill Sherry”, mutatis mutandis.
It shall be pointed out that ”origin” refers to the country or forest area where the oak has grown, not the country or place where the cask has been coopered, or where the cooperage has its facility or seat of business.
To the extent that a bottling/whisky is made up of more than one type of cask (-s), and to the extent that type or origin are indicated, all descriptions shall clearly state the full truth and avoid any expressions that may lead to misconceptions among consumers.
2.3 Cask sizes
The type and volume of oak casks have traditionally often been used within marketing in order to highlight the sensations one can get or expect from a certain whisky. Casks of the same volumes can have held different previous liquids, which means that a combined expression giving volume and previous incumbent is often to be recommended, just as it is appropriate to indicate whether the cask is ”new”/”first fill”/”fresh”, or a ”refill”/”second fill”. The provenance of a cask or set of casks may be given only when it can be proven to a reasonably safe degree.
”Gorda” – cask of ca 600 L volume, normally a former Sherry cask.
”Pipe” – cask of ca 500-700 L volume, normally a former Port wine cask.
”Drum” – cask of ca 500-700 L volume, normally a former Madeira wine cask.
”Butt” – cask of ca 500 L volume, normally a former Sherry cask.
”Puncheon” – cask of ca 400-500 L volume, normally a former fortified wine cask (Sherry etc).
”Hogshead” – a cask of ca 250 L volume, either virgin or with a previous incumbent, that may have been both spirit and fortified wine.
”Barrique” – cask of ca 225-228 L volume, either virgin or previously used for wine.
”Barrel” – cask holding ca 190-200 L volume, virgin or (usually) former Bourbon casks.
”Quarter (cask)” – cask holding ca 125 L volume, virgin or former Bourbon or wine casks.
”Octave” – cask holding ca 50-62 L volume, virgin or former Bourbon or wine casks.
”Anchor” cask holding ca 40 L volume, virgin or former Bourbon or wine casks.
”Bloodtub” – cask holding ca 30 L volume, virgin or former Bourbon or wine casks.
When reference is being made (only) to one cask type or size, all casks used for the bottling shall be of that type and/or size, unless a clear reservation is made that it applies only to a certain part of the volume.
2.4 Mixed origins for bottling (-s)
In the cases where the casks used for a certain bottling has mixed origins – the typical example being Bourbon and Sherry casks – this may be indicated, for example as ”matured in Bourbon and Sherry casks”. However, as previously set forth, reference may not, without a very clear reservation, be made only to one of the cask types used, as this can be misleading. The proportions between the cask types employed in a bottling should preferably be indicated, if a mixed origin is mentioned.
2.5 Cask related terms, miscellaneous
”Cask strength” – a term that may be used to describe a whisky that has not been diluted with water at the bottling stage, but that has been taken from the cask at the then prevailing strength.
”Marrying” / ”Marriage” – a term that may be used for a whisky that has been drawn from more than one cask, where the combined volume from the casks employed have been given a period together in the same or other casks, in order to homogenise and round off the compound character of the final whisky.
”Single cask” – a term that may be used, regardless of type, style and size of cask, to describe a whisky that for all of its maturation has been matured in one sole cask and that thus has not in any way been a mix of more than the whisky from that cask, for any part of its maturation.
”Finish” – a term that may be used to describe a whisky that has first been laid down in one type of cask and then subsequently been transferred or re-racked to a different type of cask for a period that may not be too brief, but which shall have imparted an obvious addition to the character of the resulting whisky.
”Pre-maturation”/”Double Wood” – a term that may be used when a whisky has been matured first in one type and volume of cask, such as a barrel, barrique, hogshead, puncheon, butt or gorda, but that subsequently has been transferred or re-racked into a different type and volume of cask, where the second cask type shall have contributed to the character of the resulting whisky.
”Triple Wood” – a term that may be used to describe a whisky that has successively been matured first in one type of cask such as for instance Bourbon barrels, then subsequently been matured in a second type of cask such as for instance a quarter cask, to then finally having been matured in a third type of cask, such as for example Sherry butts. Each cask type employed shall have contributed to the mature whisky, which means that the maturation periods for each subsequent cask type may not be insignificant, nor may the casks employed be so worn that they can offer little additional character to the whisky.
© Pär Caldenby