LEXICON: From E150a to Expression

I haven’t collected many ‘E’ whisky brands, words and phrases yet, but I’m quite
confident that I’ll be able to find some more. Once I’m satisfied that I’ve covered
the essentials as far as Scotch malt whisky and Scotland are concerned I’ll be
looking at other types of whisky - and hopefully beyond the Scottish borders.
Please follow me on Twitter or Facebook if you want to keep abreast of updates.


The E150a compound is the plainest of the colouring caramels.
Echlinville is a distillery (est. 2013) in Northern Ireland, near Kircubbin.
The Eden Mill distillery (also a brewery) started production in November 2014.
For quite a while, Edradour was the smallest distillery in Scotland.
The area around the city of Edinburgh was inhabited since +/- 8500 BC.
One of at least 2 distilleries named ‘Edinburgh’ was also called Sunbury ...
... while the other was also known as Sciennes (it was closed in 1925.)
The Edrington Group owns the company Highland Distillers.

The conglomerate Emperador Inc. bought Whyte & Mackay in 2014.
Enzymes are biological catalysts that facilitate biochemical reactions.
Establishing when a company was established is trickier than it seems.
Esters are chemical compounds - some smelly ones are found in whisky.
The ‘ethyl alcohol’ type of alcohol is commonly abbreviated to ethanol.
Ethyl alcohol is used as ‘drinking alcohol’ - while methanol shouldn’t be.
European (White) Oak can mean Quercus robur or Quercus petrea.
Thanks to the evaporation of liquids, the vapours can become whisky.
The Scottish Excise Act of 1823 effectively legalised whisky production.
Bottler David Stirk has chosen the most generic name possible.
An 'expression' is one particular bottling in a portfolio, range or series.

The excise act of 1823

Excise Act of 1823

During the 1700s and early 1800s, illegal whisky production and
smuggling were running rampant in Scotland. By the 1820s, 14,000
illegal stills were being confiscated EACH YEAR by the authorities.
There was some legal whisky distillation in the early 19th century,
but at least half of all whisky that was drunk was illicit whisky.

The Excise Act was passed in 1823. In exchange for a license fee
and a fixed duty on each gallon of Scotch malt whisky they produced,
distillers now didn’t have to worry about Excise men hounding them.
After that, illicit distilation died out surprisingly quickly.

Wealthy land owners didn’t like the fact that this booming business
on their estates wasn’t making them any wealthier - so they decided
that the laws needed a change. The Duke of Gordon proposed in
the House of Lords that the government should make distillation of
whisky legal - and therefore profitable for the right class of people.

One factor may have been the fact that the Highland Clearances
were still going on. This unpleasant side of Scotland’s history isn’t
mentioned very often, but it may have helped the whisky industry
evolve into what it is today - with just a hundred large distilleries.


All food additives that are used in the European Union need to have an E-number. It’s easy to find food
labels with dozens of different E-numbers on them, but you wouldn’t expect additives in Scotch whisky, right?
Wrong!  The addition of E150a or ‘spirit caramel’ is allowed - supposedly it is added as a colouring agent.

The E-numbers from 150 to 159 are all reserved for brown and black colouring agents.
E150a is also known as ‘Class I caramel’ or alkaline caramel. E150b is Alkali-sulphite caramel (or Class II
caramel), E150c is Ammonia caramel (Class III) and E150d is Sulphite-ammonia caramel (Class IV).

Contrary to popular belief (and what the Scotch whisky industry would have you believe), the addition of
E150a does actually have some effect on the flavour and mouth feel of a whisky. Four malt maniacs once
did a blind tasting with four different versions of the same Imperial whisky - chill-filtered and unchillfiltered
and coloured and uncoloured. We noticed an effect of the caramel; not so much on the taste of the whisky
itself, but as a ‘glue’ that seemed to help the different elements integrate into a coherent profile.


First of all, Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland - as well as
arguably its most beautiful city. It’s located on the east coast,
near the shores of the Firth of Forth. With the urbanisation of
this part of Scotland, the city limits of Edinburgh are only 40
kilometres away from those of its neighbour and rival Glasgow.

Edinburgh at dusk

The old Gaelic name for Edinburgh was Důn Čideann - which
is also the name of a range of independent bottlings. With some
500,000 inhabitants it’s slightly less populous than Glasgow.
Both cities have airports, so they are the premier points of
entry for international visitors to Scotland.

The city has been home to at least two distilleries with the name
‘Edinburgh’ as well. The first one, also known as Sunbury, was
founded in 1849, ran a Coffey still and operated until +/- 1856
when the larger Caledonian distillery took over its function.

The second distillery called ‘Edinburgh’ was also known under
a bunch of other names, including Sciennes and Newington.
The converted brewery (+/- 1850 by one Alexander Pearson)
eventually ended up with SMD who closed it in 1925.

Emperador Inc.

The drinks conglomerate Emperador Inc. has its main offices in the Philippines, producing many brands.
One of their flagship brands is Emperador brandy. Other products include Andy Player Black Blended Whisky
and Pik-Nik shoestring potato snacks. Emperador bought Scottish subsidiary Whyte & Mackay in 2014.


Quite a few Scotch whisky distilleries claim to have been established in the 1700s, but those claims should
be taken with a few grains of salt. Ownership and equipment have often changed numerous times since the
foundation of a distillery and the buildings may have even been rebuilt - sometimes on another location.



Esters are chemical compounds derived from an organic or
inorganic acid. At least one hydroxyl (–OH) group in the ester
is replaced by an alkoxy (–O–alkyl) group. Glycerides (fatty
acid esters of glycerol) are very important in biology.

There are many different esters and some are very important
in our modern lives. Polyesters are popular plastics while many
esters with a lower molecular weight can be found in essential
oils and fragrances in various industries.

For the whisky aficionado the most interesting aspect is the
fact that they make up much of the bouquet of a whisky.


Echlinville casks

The commercial revival of Scotch malt whisky
since the 1980s has inspired developments in
other countries as well. People started making
whisky in countries without a whisky tradition
like India and Taiwan - but that wasn’t all.

In the 1990s the Irish whiskey industry was
in even worse shape than the Scottish. Ireland
had a long, proud distilling tradition. By the end
of the 20th century only a few distilleries were left.

The launch of the Connemara peated whiskey
marked a change in the trend and quite a few
new Irish distilleries were built since then.
Echlinville was just one of them - opened 2013.

Eden Mill

The Eden Mill brewery / distillery near St. Andrews used to produce only beer and gin, but they seem to
have been making whisky as well since 2012. The marketing stories on their website are a bit vague, so I’ll
wait until their product reaches Dutch shores before I investigate the matter further.

Exclusive Malts

The generic brand name ‘Exclusive Malts’ is used by multiple companies - at least two that I know of.
There is an independent bottling operation owned by the equally generically titled ‘ImpEx’, while the fairly
young independent bottler ‘Creative Whisky Company’ chose the same name for one of its ranges.


A whisky ‘expression’ is a particular bottling or variant withing the portfolio of a certain whisky brand.
One fairly traditional way to divide a portfolio was offering different bottlings with different age statements
and maturation periods (at different price points). These days we see more and more expressions with fancy
names but without age statements. The main advantage for the seller: no need to wait for 12 or 18 years.


The evaporation of a liquid is a type of vaporization that occurs on the surface of a liquid, turning a
portion of the liquid into a gaseous phase. Boiling and distillation are ways to speed up the evaporation.

Do you know of a ‘E’ word, phrase or whisky brand I’ve missed?  Be a sport and let me know...
You can reach me through e-mail, Twitter or Facebook to help me make the Malt Madness site (a little) better.

Ethanol / Ethyl Alcohol

The consumption of ‘ethanol’ (a.k.a. ‘ethyl alcohol’) with the chemical formula C2H5OH isn’t the healthiest
choice imaginable, but it’s still preferable to drinking methanol (CH3OH). Ethanol is mildly ‘intoxicating’,
but methanol is downright toxic. It can be an unexpected by-product of the illegal distillation of spirits.
As such, this simplest form of alcohol makes most of its victims among the simplest part of the population. 


The fancy word ‘enzymes’ is used to describe biological / biochemical catalysts like Amylase and Cytase.
Enzymes facilitate and accelerate (bio)chemical reactions, like the conversion of starch into sugars during
the the malting phase of whisky production. The most important ones in the Scotch malt whisky world are
Cytase (dissolving the cell walls enclosing the starch in barley) and Amylase (converting starch into Maltose).

European Oak

The phrase ‘European Oak’ can be confusing - and in some cases that might have been the main reason
that a whisky label mentions it. It may refer to the lumber or species of oak used for the casks that were
used for the maturation of the whisky - often Quercus robur (English Oak) or Quercus petrea (Sessile oak).
However, it has also been used to describe oak casks that have previously contained European wines
or spirits - and those casks were sometimes made out of ‘American oak’ (Quercus alba).

Edrington Group

The Edrington Group is a fine example of the complex way that capital works its way into the industry.
The ‘group’ (now known simply as Edrington) is privately owned and they don’t actually produce any whisky.
They leave that to their subsidiary company Highland Distillers - who owns various brands like Macallan,
Highland Park and Famous Grouse. At one point they also owned Cutty Sark, but this may have changed.
Many Scotch whisky brands have been bought and sold in recent years with little regard for their history.

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