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Scotland’s ‘national drink’ is an international favourite

Whisky - ‘usage beatha’, the ‘water of life’ in Gaelic - has helped carry the name of Scotland to the four corners of the Earth. No matter where you are in the world, look on the shelves of any bar and you’ll spy a familiar friend from Scotland.

While many countries in the world produce whisky, only one country - Scotland - can make ‘Scotch’. Rightly famed for its flavour, aroma and complexity, the world-conquering drink is a simple distillation of just three raw materials: water, cereals and yeast. 

The process that transforms that trio into Scotch whisky is one part skill, one part art, and one part alchemy. Only when the whisky has matured - in Scotland - for a minimum of three years, can it be labelled and sold as Scotch whisky.

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Scotland is home to over 100 whisky distilleries - the greatest concentration of whisky production in the world

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More than a grain of truth

While many Scots distilleries bottle their whisky as single malt - the product of a single distillery - the majority is sold and drunk as blended Scotch whisky. This is where the art part comes in.

It’s no easy task to blend as many as 50 different malts and single grain whiskies to achieve and maintain consistent quality, taste and flavour over the years. That’s what customers want, and have come to expect - they want to know that their favourite Scotch whisky will taste the same wherever they buy it.

From Caracas to Kowloon, Manila to Minsk, consumers know that Scotch whisky sets the gold standard.


Flavour to the fore

Using local water and grains, the flavour of our whiskies is as varied as our country, the alchemy of location and landscape adding character at every step of the production process.

Single malt Scotch whisky is usually classified in one of five categories - Highland, Lowland, Speyside, Islay, and Campbeltown - with the local climate and geography of each region adding its own tastes and flavours to the whisky produced there. From the muscular, peaty malts of Islay, to the lighter, sherried flavours of Speyside, each malt is unique.

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Status worth protecting

The quality and earning power of Scotland’s national drink is protected fiercely.

The industry is overseen by the Scotch Whisky Authority (SWA), which works to sustain Scotch whisky's place as the world's leading high-quality spirit drink and its long-term growth worldwide. The SWA safeguards the drink at home and abroad.

While promoting responsible drinking, the SWA works to secure fair and equal access to international markets, and promotes the product around the world. Customers appreciate that support, returning again and again to the trusted names and labels of their favourite Scotches.

More Scotch is sold every month in France than Cognac in a year

Industry at the heart of Scotland 

Providing employment in some of Scotland’s most rural communities, the success of the Scotch whisky industry also feeds the country’s industrial heartlands, securing thousands of supply chain jobs: 

  • Scotch whisky accounts for about a quarter of UK food and drinks exports 
  • Scotch whisky is sold in 200 markets worldwide 
  • Export earnings equate to about £135 every second 
  • 117 distilleries are licensed to produce Scotch whisky 
  • Around 40,000 UK jobs are supported by the Scotch whisky industry.  
  • Around £1.7 billion a year is invested across the industry’s supply chain 
  • Some 20 million casks lie maturing in warehouses in Scotland - laid end to end they would stretch for around 30,000 kilometres (18,600 miles) 
  • In the US, sales of single malt almost tripled between 2002 and 2015  
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We are continuing to grow. There are huge investment flows from established producers. In the last few years some 14 new distilleries saw spirit flow for the first time. We are aware of up to 40 further projects for new distilleries. We haven't seen anything like this for many years.

Julie Hesketh-Laird Acting chief executive, Scotch Whisky Association

Changing world, changing markets 

Scotch whisky is a marker of global trade, carrying Scotland's name around the world. As some markets mature, other new markets emerge.  

With its 'premium' label, Scotch whisky is ideally positioned to build on existing markets and gain from the growth in emerging markets. For repeat customers, Scotch offers a taste of heritage, while for new customers, it comes packaged in tradition and offers quality provenance. 

New names, old traditions 

The global growth in Scotch whisky sales has seen many changes within the trade. 

The industry is diverse, made up of a mix of large global companies and long-standing family businesses. New boutique distilleries are coming on stream, with producers either building from scratch or restoring and reactivating long-closed facilities. 

With Scotch whisky’s long production lifecycle, this displays a strong faith in the future of the industry. 

Thankfully, even after the ‘angels’ have had their share (the percentage of raw spirit which evaporates from casks during maturation), there should still be enough to go around.

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We're here to help

Whether you’re a wholesaler, retailer, foodservice operator, importer or an agent - and wherever you are in the world - we can help.

We have an extensive network of offices around the world. Our international staff live and work within their office locale, have a comprehensive understanding of your market-specific business needs and can help link you to Scotch whisky producers and suppliers. 

Contact us