Ron Welsh: 'Scotch whisky laws should be relaxed'

Beam Suntory master blender Ron Welsh told Drinks International that he believes the laws on scotch whisky barrel finishing are too restricting and that there are many casks yet to be tested.

DI joined Welsh during the third addition of Auchentoshan’s New Malt Order, where selected bartenders from across the world travel to Glasgow to create the Bartender’s Blend, a whisky created by the bartenders under his supervision.

Welsh has worked in the scotch whisky industry for 26 years and has been master blender and strategic inventory manager for Beam Suntory since 2014.

“I don’t think we’re finished in terms of where we can go with wood finishing,” said Welsh. “There’s still lots of casks that we can’t legally try and I think if the laws relax then there will be a large number of small players who will take it to the extreme.

“Wood finishing has progressed a lot over the past 30 years and there’s some barrels that work really well with whisky and then others that aren’t so good.”

He told DI that members of the Scotch Whisky Association recently went to Parliament with a proposal to relax the laws on barrel finishing, which he said he would be in favour of.

However, Welsh insisted there needs to be a balance between regulations being too strict and too relaxed in order to retain the reputation of scotch whisky while also allowing for innovation.

“There’s been a lot of casks made form Chestnut wood which I believe might do something to whisky which I’d like to try but I don’t think they’ll relax the laws to two different wood types, I think it’ll still just be oak.

“But there’s still a whole bunch of different oak varieties out there which I’m yet to try. We’ve got maybe 10 different oak varieties in our inventory and there’s certainly room for some more.”