The “light spirit drink” can't technically be called Scotch or whisky.

By Mike Pomranz
Updated May 29, 2019

Light beer went from being a new invention in the 1970s to accounting for nearly half of the beer market today. And as younger generations seek out healthier, lower-ABV options more low-calorie beers — as well as other drinks like wine and hard seltzer — are currently trending once again. So could light “Scotch whisky” be the next big thing? Technically speaking, no, but practically speaking, maybe.

Scotch producer Whyte & Mackay has released the 21.5-percent ABV Whyte & Mackay Light, billed as “a lighter spirit drink from Scotland, made from Scotch whisky married with Sherry.” Not to be confused with “light whisky” — which is a style of full-strength whisky — this “light spirit drink” can’t official be called whisky at all because Scotch is required to be at least 40-percent ABV. But that hasn’t stopped Whyte & Mackay, which already has a name associated with Scotch, from trying to capitalize on the low-ABV trend.

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“People trust Whyte & Mackay to make a great-tasting spirit and, thanks to our expert distilling team, Whyte & Mackay Light tastes fantastic — either straight over ice, or served with your favorite mixer,” Rod Gillies, head of innovation at Whyte & Mackay, said according to the site Scotch Whisky. “We’re using the strength of one of our existing brands to deliver an attractive option for the growing number of consumers who may be looking to keep an eye on their alcohol intake.”

This “rich, smooth, and slightly smoky” spirit drink is debuting at the British grocery chain Tesco at just £12 for a 700 milliliter bottle. Whyte & Mackay hopes it will appeal to the same younger drinkers who are reaching for low- and no-alcohol beer, cider, and wine — categories that have been growing in the U.K. even more than in the U.S.

Meanwhile, as Scotch Whisky points out, Whyte & Mackay isn’t the first company to release a low-ABV “whisky”: For instance, similar products were launched by Diageo in South Korea in 2015. However, “light spirit drinks” certainly aren’t yet common, and at just 21.5-percent ABV, Whyte & Mackay Light appear to be even lighter than its predecessors.