Bastard malt and teaspooning

How Scottish whisky distilleries protect their interests and image

Reputation and image are extremely important to Scotch whisky distilleries. The owners want the name of their distillery to always be associated with the highest quality and sometimes also with the rarity of the produced spirits. Scottish distilleries want to have as much control as possible over the character, standards and the supply of whisky bottled under their official name, especially as single malt. On the other hand, for economic reasons, Scottish distilleries want to sell their casks to external entities, such as independent bottlers or large discounters. The industry has developed solutions that allow to sell large numbers of casks without the fear of a sharp increase in the supply of bottles from a given distillery on the market, which could lead to a reduction in the reputation and value of official outings, which are called the "Teaspooning" and the so-called "Bastard malts".

Bastard malt

In large stores and discounts, we often come across single malt Scotch whisky, on which there is no information about the name of any distillery. These types of bottles are referred to as "bastard malts" or simply "bastards". Distilleries and concerns are reluctant to announce to the public that they are producing whisky for a discount chain. One of the reasons is the possible loss of prestige - less control over the quality of the drink, which is less important for discounters than their price, and mass sales may have a negative impact on the reputation of the distillery that has been built over the years.

Large retail chains create their own brands under which whisky is released to the market. However, the inability to name the distillery by name does not prevent networks from describing the whisky relatively accurately - it often happens that bastard malt is marked with the age, used type of casks or the region they come from. On the bottles in discount stores we can find descriptions such as "16YO Islay Single Malt", which allow us to some extent to guess what character of whisky we can expect from this bottle. It is a compromise that allows retail chains to offer customers premium products and distilleries to sell large batches of casks without the fear of losing prestige.

Teaspooning

"Teaspooning" is the practice of adding a small amount of whisky from a specific distillery (hence the name referring to a teaspoon) to a cask with distillate from another distillery, resulting in blended whisky, which is 99% single malt whisky from one distillery. This procedure prevents buyers from bottling these casks under the official name of the distillery or as single malt whisky. Most often, teaspooning is used while selling casks to independent bottlers or competitors as a way to protect your brand and the supply of single malt bottles from a specific distillery.

Over the past few years, teaspooning has become a fairly common practice and a response to the existing brokerage system on the whisky cask market. It may be interesting that some of the so-called ‘teaspoon malts’ have made a name for themselves. For example Burnside, which is widely known to be Balvenie with a small addition of Glenfiddich whisky. Whisky connoisseurs understand perfectly well that in reality they get a product that does not differ in quality from Balvenie single malts. Perhaps in the future we will face a situation in which some teaspoon malts will become as desirable and appreciated as single malt outlets from famous Scottish distilleries.

 

 

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