Last week we looked at how many whisky distilleries there are in Scotland, the answer is quite a lot and growing the whole time. Now, it’s time to answer once and for all how many brands of Scotch whisky there are.

That isn’t easy… actually I’ll go further and say it is an impossible question to answer because not even the head of the SWA (Scotch Whisky Association) knows for sure. But we can break it down and try to get a rough figure. Broadly speaking, there are three types of whisky brand: single malts (and grains), blended whiskies and brands used by independent bottlers. We’ll go through these one by one and then try to work out how many Scotch whisky brands there are in total.

How many whisky brands are there?

Glenfiddich – a globally renowned single malt brand

Single distillery brands

In the past most malt whisky went into blends but starting with Glenfiddich in the 1960s, closely followed by Balvenie, Glenfarclas and Macallan, the concept of a single malt brand was revived. This was whisky bottled from a single distillery by the distillery and sold with the name of the distillery as the brand. Sounds quite straightforward to us but this was highly unusual 50 years ago.

Whereas now most single malt distilleries are brands in there own right, there are still some distilleries like Balmanech, Mannochmore and Allt-á-Bhainne that don’t bottle their own whisky – it all goes into blends or is occasionally seen as independent bottlings. Most grain whiskies (see this explainer for the difference) also fall into this category. While you might see a bottling of Girvan or Cameronbridge, neither are brands in the strict sense of the word. 

There are 146 distilleries in Scotland (according to the SWA website) and more in the pipeline so let’s say there are about 140 single distillery brands.

How many brands of whisky are there?

It’s massive in Colombia

Blended whisky

Single malts might get all the attention but 90% of the whisky sold globally is blended whisky. Brands such as Johnnie Walker, Bell’s and Dewar’s built the whisky industry as we know it – most malt distilleries would not exist were it not for the demands of the blenders. How many blended whisky brands there are is, however, impossible to say. While everyone has heard of J&B, Cutty Sark and the Famous Grouse, what about Hankey Bannister, Label 5 or Old Parr? The last two are almost completely unknown in Britain but Label 5 is huge in France and Old Parr is so popular in Columbia that songs have been written aboiut it. New blended whisky brands are formed every year including celebrity ones like Sassenach or Coachbuilt while old ones fall by the wayside only to be revived. 

On Master of Malt we stock around 100 different blended whisky brands.

How many Scotch whisky brands are there?

Smokehead – it’s not a distillery or a blend but it is a brand

Independent bottler brands

For much of the 20th century, if you wanted a single malt whisky, you had to go to a merchant like Gordon & MacPhail which bottles whisky from malt distilleries – there were no single malt bands as such. Despite the rise of single malt brands, there are now dozens of independent bottlers who release unusual single malts often from single casks. Whereas some like That Boutique-y Whisky Company are well-known, there are dozens of others and new ones appearing the whole time. Just to confuse matters many independent bottlers have their own brands of blended whisky brands like Douglas Laing with its Epicurean range.

Finally there are single malt brands where the identity of the single malt brands isn’t known. These include Islay whiskies such as Smokehead, Port Askaing and the mighty Seaweed & Aeons & Digging & Fire.

How many independent bottlers are there? Hard to say exactly but we stock around 75 different ones.

So how many Scotch whisky brands are there?

More than there are stars in the sky but at Master of Malt, our range includes about 325 different brands. And then of course each brand might have various different expressions which is why we stock thousands of Scotch whiskies. And that’s before we get on to Ireland, America, Canada, Japan, and beyond. There’s a lot of whisky out there.