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A Rationale For A Bottling I.D.

On a recent single malt shopping trip in Scotland, in an effort to add to my collection, I observed on the shelves of a very reputable liquor establishment two twelve-year-old single malts with identical labels but with very different single malts inside the bottles. One of the malts had an extremely pale yellow color as one might expect from a malt that had been matured in a plain oak cask. The other had a deep amber color as would be the result from a first-fill olorosa cask. I was startled, to say the least.

The single malt examples to which I refer were not from one of the "seat-of-the-pants," private bottling outfits that seem to be coming out of the woodwork these days. They were from one of the most respected distilleries in Scotland. So, why should I consider this a problem? Well, there are a couple of reasons that I can think of:

One reason is that I am in the business of educating the masses about the great and incomparable Scotch Single Malt Whisky. There are enough variables (for which I am eternally grateful) already that present sufficient challenges. This specific example, though easy enough to explain to even the layman, could produce an embarrassment for me and other experts who are asked for malt recommendations. Even worse, it could result in undue confusion for the novice who may be just developing an interest in the single malt.

For example, as relative to these two identically labeled Scotch single malts, suppose that I had purchased the dark malt with the obvious olorosa pedigree and really liked it. I then recommended this malt to a friend over the telephone in the usual way, by distillery, age and proof. My friend then rushes out and purchases the bottle but he gets the other bottling. What will be his opinion of my "expert" status now?

I believe that it is necessary for the industry to insist on all bottlings being given a batch or 'run number' and that this number be prominently displayed on the label. The proliferation of private bottlings serves as even more reason for this argument. We see this already being done in other areas of the liquor industry. The greatest spirit of them all should be the first to be concerned with proper identification when it comes to the elimination of confusion among their constituency. Would this be very difficult to do? Not really.

I would appreciate your opinions and reaction to mine. I would really like to know what the Scotch single malt industry thinks.

The Scotch Doc

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