Appellation (contrôlée) is the legally defined and protected geographical designation used, especially in France, to ascertain where the grapes for a wine were grown. The system is based on precisely defined wine regions. For example, champagne can only be called champagne when its grapes and the final product come from that specific region. Otherwise the beverage is considered sparkling wine

In the whisky world, it is common practice to state the region of origin. That’s where the whisky has to be made, matured and, in most cases, bottled. However, the grains used may come from a different region, state, or even country.

The label on a Scottish single malt whisky often shows the region of origin. The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) uses the following division: Highlands, Speyside, Islay, Lowlands, and Campbeltown. Various whisky writers also include Islands as one of the regions.

In the earlier days, the region was solely an indicator of the taste of the whisky, but nowadays it primarily serves as an indication of the geographical area where the whisky is produced.

The label can say Scotch only when the whisky has been distilled, matured, bottled, and blended in Scotland.

Along the same lines, bourbon can only be called bourbon when it’s distilled in the United States. Jack Daniel’s distinguishes itself by the moniker Tennessee whiskey, as do George Dickel and Prichard’s, located in the same state.

Whisky can be called Irish whiskey only if it was produced in Ireland, and Canadian whisky only if it was distilled in Canada. Japanese whisky, on the other hand, can either be 100 percent Japanese or a blend of Japanese and Scotch whiskies. For the rest of the world, a rule of thumb applies: if the label contains a country name, the whisky in the bottle has to be produced in said country.

Our whisky Q&A is provided courtesy of SMWS ambassador Hans Offringa’s A Field Guide to Whisky: An expert compendium to take your passion and knowledge to the next level