Whisky Advocate

When is a “single malt” whisky not one?

September 7th, 2009

The distillers of Amrut Indian whisky want to import their products into the United States. (This is great news!) To do this, the need label approval from the TTB (the governmental agency that regulates alcohol).

I just received this note from Ashok Chokalingam from Amrut:

When is a Single Malt Whisky not one? The TTB does not recognize “Single Malt” or “Peated Single Malt” as an acceptable designation for Single Malt whiskies produced outside of Scotland. Purple Valley Imports, the importers of Amrut Indian Single Malt Whiskies have been trying to get their products approved for labeling for what it is – Single Malt Whisky. However the TTB does not have a designation for “Single Malt Whisky.” With all of the world class quality Single Malts being produced outside of Scotland isn’t it time for the TTB to acknowledge that “Single Malt” is not unique to Scotland?

So, if they want to bring their single malt whisky into the U.S., they told me they would have to label it as either a “Straight Malt Whisky” or “Malt Whisky.”  (Straight Malt Whisky??) They have argued that a number of non-Scotland whiskies (e.g. Yamazaki from Japan and Penderyn from Wales) can label their whisky as “Single Malt,” but they are not allowed this designation.

Anyone out there know someone at the TTB who can help them label their whisky as what it is, a single malt?


33 Responses to “When is a “single malt” whisky not one?”

  1. Here’s one person that deserves some e-mails…Art Resnick is the head of Public & Media Affairs for the TTB…

    I suggest other readers start Art’s week off Tuesday with a few dozen e-mails asking this very question…


  2. sam k says:

    I’m almost afraid to ask. What’s the SWA’s take on this issue?

  3. Amrut is sold in the UK with no objections from the SWA, since it’s clearly labeled as an Indian product. The SWA goes ballistic when someone in another country tries to pass off locally produced whisky as Scotch.

  4. Maybe someone should e-mail the SWA with the suggestion of “Straight Malt Whisky” as a designation…..or maybe not…..
    Is it just me or is bureaucracy getting stupider ?
    It’s bloody good whisky though….Says he that’s just done an article and tasting on his website about Amrut……

  5. Willie says:

    There’s no doubt in my mind that yje Amrut is worthy of the designation single malt, both in terms of the production and the quality. I love watching the faces of folk who are trying it for the first time; all ready to screw their faces up and then looking at their glasses with wonder as they realise how good it is.

    If anyone out there can help the Amrut folks they should. this is serious whisky.

  6. sam k says:


    Can’t blame them for being protectiev of the term “scotch.” “Single Malt,” however, is a totally different subject.

  7. This is absurd: a bunch of government monkeys who don’t even know what a whisky is, looking only at the sheet in front of them with a check box they can’t fill in…
    I’ll jump in and send this guy an email as well.

  8. Tim D says:

    I guess I don’t understand then – what is Yamazaki considered by TTB? – it’s clearly labeled “SINGLE MALT WHISKY” on the box/bottle… how did they bypass this stupidity?

  9. Ben says:

    Hey John,

    Unfortunately this does not surprise me, nor is it restricted to just this instance. I work at a micro-distillery that has been experimenting with some whiskey recipes that travel into uncharted territory (i.e. Pumpkin Spice Whiskey). We have found the people at the TTB to be very nice, but they often don’t know how to react when a product breaks the mold. The regs were designed so producers would be truthful in their labeling, but at this point (at least for us, and it looks like for Amrut) the regs are forcing people to resort to generic names that are less forthright. I expect things to change as more and more small producers are breaking out of traditional whiskey categories.

  10. Crazy! I guess Mr. Resnick is not a whisky drinker.

  11. Ashok Chokalingam says:

    Hi John,

    This is a pain the neck for us.

    Amrut Single Malt Was officialy launched in Glasgow, Scotland! SWA (Scotch Whisky Association) was invited for the official launch of this very Indian Single Malt Whisky in the U.K.

    Before the product was launched in the U.K and Europe, we did consult SWA and got cleared with everything. In a nutshell, we comply with SWA or even European Union regulations on what a single malt whisky is. In other words we are exactly doing what Scotch Distillers are doing in terms of producing the Single Malt Whiskies.

    Well, TTB says that it does not have a classification of Single Malt Whiskies that are produced outside of Scotland. Two questions need to be asked here. The first one, SWA the governing body of Scotch Distillers did not see anything wrong in our labelling and hence the product is widely sold in the Europe, Scandinavia, even with the toughest regulator LCBO!, Canada, Australia…..

    The second question is as many others asked here, I have double checked the world Atlas and can conform to you that Japan and Wales are no way closer to Scotland! How did TTB permit these two single malt whiskies (I agree they are single malts though) to be labelled and sold in the USA as a single malt whisky?

    I believe rule is a rule. One can not discriminate based on the origin of the whisky. I also believe USA is a country which often lead others by example in most of the critical issues around the world. But on this instance it is the other way round. I WOULD NOT BE interested to sell my whiskies as a ‘Straingt Malt Whisky’ in the USA for sure.

    Yours Truly,

    Ashok Chokalingam
    Amrut Distilleries Ltd

  12. John Hansell says:

    Okay then. Everyone reading my blog, please send an email to Art Resnick at the email provided by Mark Gillespie above in Comment #1.

    Also, Ashok, feel free to have Art email me if he needs some clarification. Or point him to this blog.

  13. JD says:

    FWIW, I can think of a few other whiskeys sold in the US as “Single Malts” despite the fact that they don’t come from Scotland. There’s Milford (from New Zealand) for one. Tuthilltown (in upstate New York) sells a Hudson Single Malt as well.

    My guess is the left hand at the TTB just doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. Thanks to John for bringing this issue to light. Now we can all do our part to get the Bureau to apply a little common sense here. I’m looking to trying Amrut soon!


  14. Neil Fusillo says:

    “Straight Malt Whisky” is pretty vague.

    “‘Straight Malt Whisky’ may include mixtures of two or more straight malt whiskies provided all of the whiskies are produced in the same state”

    It seems that labeling requirements for ALL of the alcohol products in the TTB lists are strictly US-centric. None of it deals well with imported alcohols.

  15. gilberto says:

    how about glenbreton 10yr,canadien, ant theres michael collins

  16. John Hansell says:

    Some good news. I just received this note from Ashok:

    “Many thanks for your support in arguing our case. It looks like TTB will accept our request, and I can conform to you tomorrow.”

  17. Bruichladdict says:

    Is Amrut distilled from fermented molasses as are many Indian whiskies?

    If so, the term Single Malt may not apply at all…any thoughts?

  18. John Hansell says:

    No Bruichladdict, this is the real deal. 100% malted barley.

  19. […] is a single malt whisky not a single malt whisy?  Apparently when it is from India. Share and […]

  20. DeanSheen says:

    Wow, that was fast.

    I fired off a missive. I’d really like to try this stuff, hope it’s soon.

    Yamakazi opened my eyes. Other options are always nice.

  21. Tim Puett says:

    It’s good to hear that Ashok may have received permission after all.

    I live less than 50 miles from St. George Distillery in Alameda, California. The label says Single Malt Whiskey, and I believe we are pretty far from Scotland.

    For a picture of St. George Single Malt, see this tiny url.

  22. butephoto says:

    Got to love bureaucracy.

  23. Willie says:

    That sounds like good news. Hopefully the US folks will now get access to Ashok’s fine whiskies.

  24. Ashok Chokalingam says:

    Hello John,

    Atleast now, the terminology issue is sorted out. This is half of the battle that got over. Still got to do the remaining process. I sincerley thank you, Mark Gillespie, Lawrence Graham and all the readers of the blog for your sincere comments and the positive attitude. We are hoping to get into the shelves of the shops in the USA as early as possible and at the moment we do not know how long it is going to take. However, we will be pouring Amrut at whisky fest New York for sure.

    Many thanks to all of you again.

    Best Regards

    Ashok Chokalingam
    Amrut Distilleries Ltd

  25. John Hansell says:

    Power to the people everyone! I think your emails to the TTB helped here!

    Ashok, we’ll see you in New York for WhiskyFest.

  26. Don’t forget Wasmund’s Single Malt
    Which is barley but smoked with apple and cherry wood and made in Virginia. I think maybe Amrut just caught the wrong person at TTB when the application came through. Yes I think they need to look at their classifications again and evolve with the distillers and market (while maintaining integrity of labeling and definitions which I admit may be tricky

  27. Roger says:

    Bushmills make also single malt whiskey and they are not scotch. Japan too. And Cooley from Ireland. Scotch is very nice and my favorite may be. Bt the world is biased towards Scotch. Just read whiskyfun or malt maniacs. TTB shows this too now.

    Crazy is right.


  28. John Hansell says:

    I just received an email from Art Resnick at the TTB. In it, he explains the current situation relating to the term “Single Malt”. Here it is:

    Dear John,

    I am writing this and sending it to you as a response to your blog entitled; “When is a “single malt” whisky not one?” and as a response to the comments posted, and e-mails received by me regarding this subject. I apologize for the technical nature of our response, but the question at hand involves product classification and formulation issues which are totally dictated by existing laws and regulations. It should be noted that these have been in effect for over ½ a century and this is far from the first time we have encountered issues regarding how they are implemented and interpreted. In all such cases, TTB will work with the label applicant and make recommendations to assist in bringing the label into compliance for as long as the applicant desires. It is always our goal to assist in bringing new, accurately and not misleading labeled products to market, not to impede such commerce.

    While privacy and disclosure laws prohibit me from discussing a specific label application or product, I can provide the following information regarding issues involving the labeling of whiskies.

    In accordance with U.S. regulations, all distilled spirits labels must state the class and type of the product as outlined in 27 CFR 5.35, Class and type. Pursuant to this regulation, the class and type designation must be in conformity with 27 CFR 5.22, The standards of identity, if defined therein.

    The standard of identity for Whiskies can be found at 27 CFR 5.22 (b), Class 2: whisky. The standard of identity for “Malt Whisky” (a type of whisky), as stated in 27 CFR 5.22(b)(1)(i), is that the whisky is produced from a fermented mash of not less than 51% malted barley, distilled at not more than 160 proof, stored in charred new oak containers at not more 125 proof, and bottled at not less than 80 proof. The standard of identity for “Straight Malt Whisky” (a type of whisky), is the whisky must be produced in the same manner as a “Malt Whisky”, but also aged for at least 2 years in charred new oak containers as per 27 CFR 5.22(b)(1)(iii). This regulation specifically states that Malt Whiskies that have been aged “for a period of 2 years or more shall be further designated as ‘straight . . . .’’ The classification determination is based on the review of a quantitative list of ingredients, the method of manufacture, and if required, the results of a chemical analysis by our laboratory of a sample of the product provided to us by the applicant.

    The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) regulations do not provide for a standard of identity (class and type designation or “type” of whisky) for “single malt whisky” and therefore this may not be used as a class and type designation to identify the product in accordance with U.S. regulation. There is not a U.S. regulatory definition for the term “single malt” on whisky labels. Please note that TTB does permit the use of this phrase on whisky labels, regardless of the country of origin, provided that this reference is truthful, accurate and does not create a misleading impression. The trade and consumer understanding of the term “single malt” is whisky produced from a fermented mash of 100% malted barley. Based on the information provided to us at the time of our determination of the type of whisky for any particular product, this statement (“single malt”) could be used as additional information on labels as outlined in 27 CFR 5.33(f).

    The regulations cited above can be found in their entirety on our web site at

    I hope this helps clarify some of the issues described in your blog and comments.

    Art Resnick
    Director, Public and Media Affairs (TTB)

  29. John, thanks for publishing this response…as confusing as it is, it does give insight into the TTB’s labeling process, and therefore a way to challenge its inconsistencies. I think the key phrase here is “laws and regulations…in use for over 1/2 century”. Since then, understanding of whisky products has come into sharper focus with wider and more accepted general definitions defined by the industry, and it looks like the TTB needs to play catch up. Thanks again for opening up a valuable dialogue, and I’m looking forward to tasting Amrut at this year’s WhiskyFest.

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