The Scotch Whisky Research Institute

​​A Brief History of  SWRI

The Scotch Whisky Research Institute was established in 1974 as Pentlands Scotch Whisky Research by a consortium of seven independent distillers who set out to create an organisation in which distillers would work collectively to solve common problems and challenges. Its purpose was to give the Scotch Whisky industry a centre of scientific excellence dedicated to its needs and able to provide technical expertise in all non-engineering aspects of Scotch Whisky production. By 1995 some of the bigger distillers, including United Distillers (now Diageo) and Chivas, had joined to form The Scotch Whisky Research Institute. Today, our membership covers the majority of the Scotch Whisky industry.

SWRI was originally located in buildings that were part of the North British grain distillery in Edinburgh. In 1997 we moved into the Robertson Trust Building, purpose built facilities situated in the Heriot Watt Research Park on the outskirts of Edinburgh.

For the past 40 years our scientists have been supporting our members and carrying out research which has delivered significant innovation, change and benefits to the industry.

Key Achievements:

  • ​1976: Distillery profiling allows a scientific approach to improving production efficiency.

  • 1979: Development of the Scotch Whisky Flavour Wheel, which has now become an industry standard for sensory evaluation of Scotch Whisky.

  • 1991: Development of a patented method of cask regeneration to improve maturation performance.

  • 1997: Genetic fingerprint marker developed in collaboration with the James Hutton Institute to help plant breeders develop barley varieties suitable for use in Scotch Whisky production.

  • 1998: Compositional database established to protect the Scotch Whisky industry against counterfeiting.

  • 2002: Research on chill-filtration identified methods that provide significant energy savings when filtering blended whisky.

  • 2004: The GREEN grain project results in improvements in distilling wheat quality and reduced greenhouse gas footprint.

  • 2006: Research establishes links between geographical peat source, its composition and the flavour it imparts to whisky.

  • 2007: An exemption from on-pack allergen labelling is granted within the EU to distilled spirits based on SWRI research demonstrating that protein allergens derived from raw materials do not cross the distillation barrier.

  • 2009: SWRI’s Life Cycle Analysis provides baseline information for Scotch Whisky Association’s environmental strategy.

  • ​2014: SWRI becomes a partner in the EU Framework 7 project on Food Integrity which links 38 European partners with expertise in different aspects of food authenticity. SWRI leads the spirit drinks work package.


  • 2015: The MATIN project results in new guidelines for warehouse design to minimise alcohol losses from casks.

  • 2016: New project initiated to develop a soft wheat variety suitable for grain whisky production in collaboration with plant breeders and geneticists.