There are a number of terms specific to the world of Whisky that tend to pop up in conversations between those who like to chat about Whisky, and even in Whisky literature, some of which you’ll find below.
Analyser:- In patent still distillation, the first column is also referred to as the analyser.
Aqua Vitae:- This Latin term means “water of life” also see Uisce Beatha.
Barley loft:- This is an area where the barley is kept before being it is malted.
Barrell proof:- This is a phrase commonly used by our American ambassador Bruce. The guys over the pond use this phrase when referring to “cask strength”.
Burnt ale:- Is the liquor left after the first still after the first distillation process. This is commonly used for animal fodder.
Cask:- A wooden barrel into which whisky is matured.
Cask strength:- This refers to whisky which has been bottled without any dilution, this means the whisky has been bottled at the strength of which it was poured from the cask. This whisky can be enjoyed at full strength but is more commonly enjoyed with a splash of water. Some people feel that a cask strength whisky with a splash of H2O has a more superior taste than that of a regular whisky.
Coffee Still:- Patent still invented by Irish man Aeneas Coffee. This invention allows the continuous distillation of wash.
Dephlegmator xxx :- This is the bubble shaped piece found at the top /neck of some stills.
Double matured:- This term is used when a whisky has been aged in two different casks.
Draff:- Refers to the spent grains after the mashing process.
Dram:- This is a term used when referring to a nip or sip of whisky. This term is more commonly used in Scotland. The whisky boys would like to put anyone straight on this as throughout numerous distillery visits, they have never been subjected to just a nip or sip of a whisky.
Feints:- Also referred to as tails or aftershots, this is the final spirit from the low wines. This not only has a low alcohol content, it also contains impurities and the taste is somewhat undesirable, for this reason it usually returned to the low wines for re-distillation.
Fermentation:- Active period during the brewing process when yeast reacts with the sugar rich wort.
Finishing:- This is an optional stage after the primary ageing in barrels. Whisky is sometimes put into casks which have been previously used for maturing wine. The most popular finishes would normally be sherry, Madeira or even port.
Grain Whisky:- Whisky produced from column stills, normally made from wheat or maize with a small quantity of malted barley to aid fermentation.
Grist:- This is a phrase used to describe the barley after it has been shredded and ground.
Head:- This term refers to the foreshots of the distillation.
Heart:- More commonly known as the middle cut of the distillation. This is the “prime” cut that is eventually filled into casks.
High Proof:- If a whisky is flammable, it means it is stronger 57% ABV, this is also commonly referred to in Scotland as being “100 proof”. Our American ambassador has however informed us that American’s class would refer to a whisky being “100 proof” if it was stronger than 50% ABV.
Independent bottlers:- This term refers to companies that purchase individual casks of whisky for them to bottle, market and sell. Although most independent bottlers will rebrand the whisky, they more often than not use the name of the distillery on the their labels (with the distillery’s permission).
Keepers of the Quaich:- A society founded in Scotland with the sole task of enhancing the prestige and popularity of whisky – globally. Membership to this exclusive society is restricted to those who have a strong association with whisky for at least 5 years (4 more to go) and must also be proposed & seconded by existing members. The “Keepers” were established in 1988 by four large whisky manufacturers. In 2016, the society had grown to more than 1,400 members, all of which had one thing in common despite coming from all over the globe – Whisky.
Low wines:- This is obtained from the first still, this is also commonly referred to as “low wines still”.
Lyne arm:- This refers to the neck of a pot still.
Maltman:- Distilleries that do their own malting, traditionally named the person in charge of the malting process the “Maltman”.
Master blender / Malt maser:- The Master blender selects the casks that will be bottled into single malts or blends. The Master blender is also responsible for the cask quality and wood finishing.
Maturation:- This is the period of time (usually between 3 and 25 years) a whisky is aged in it’s chosen wooden cask. This stage sees the whisky mature from a raw spirit to a fully developed whisky.
New make:- This is the name given to a newly distilled spirit, the whisky is usually colourless at this stage.
O.F.C.:- This is an abbreviation for Old Fine Canadian.
Official bottling:- This term is used when a whisky has been bottled directly by the producer or at least by it’s owner as opposed to an independent bottler.
On the rocks:- As you would imagine, this is whisky over ice. The Whisky Boys would not recommend this, as they feel the ice can sometimes compromise the taste and prevents certain flavours from developing.
Peat:- Term given to the material formed by decaying matter found in bog land. Traditionally used in Scotland as the fuel for during the malted barley.
Pure malt whisky: Vatted Malt Whisky, this is a blend of different single malt whiskies.
Quaich:- This means cup in Gaelic (cuach). This is used for ceremonial whisky drinking. Quaich’s were traditionally made from wood but these are now likely to be made from silver.
Run:- Clear alcohol rich liquid produced during the distilling process.
Saladin box:- This is a mechanised method of turning the barley with rakes during germination. This is old school and very rarely used nowadays.
Sample safe:- This is more commonly knows as “Spirit safe”.
Shiel:- This is the wooden shovel used for turning over the barley malt in malthouses.
Slainthe:- This is a Gaelic terms which means “good health”, in Scotland we usually say “cheers”.
SMWS:- This is the shortened name for “The Scotch Malt Whisky Society”
Stillman:- This person oversees the entire distilling process. This person is usually the only person who knows the details and secrets about how and when to proceed from foreshots to middle cut to feints.
Tail:- This is another term used when referring to feints.
Uisce Beatha:- Celtic term for “water of life” also see Aqua vitae for Latin term.
Vatting:- The mixing together of identical whiskies from a single distillery, using different casks in order to maintain continuity of character for a particular brand of whisky.
Vintage:- Refers to a Whisky that has been produced in a clearly specified year.