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A handy glossary for International #WhiskyDay

Published Mar 27, 2018


Have you ever wondered what whisky drinkers and connoisseurs mean when they use terms such as “marrying” of the whisky or “nosing” of the whisky? 

Worry no more this handy glossary is all you need to know about whisky.

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A - Angels Share: The name Angel's Share was given to the whisky which each year evaporates from the barrels stored in warehouses. On average this works out at approx. 2% of the barrel's contents per annum, of which most of it is alcohol.

B - Backset: An American term for the liquid at the bottom of the stills after distillation. This is added to the Washback and the Mash Tun to prevent bacterial contamination.

C - Caramel: Sometimes used as a colouring agent in whisky. It is made from sugar

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D - Dram: Small glass of whisky (or other spirit).

E - Ethereal: Pertaining to the aroma of ether. They are light aromas which are easily detectable on first nosing, they are atmospheric

F - Finish: The flavour of a whisk(e)y after is has been swallowed. The finish is measured in length, meaning how long the flavour is retained. Usually, a longer finish is preferred.

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G -Grist: Malted barley that has been ground up into a powder, so that it can be added to water to become mash and the natural sugars present will dissolve

H -Heart: The middle part of the first distillation.

I -Islay: The most famous of the Scottish island for whisky production. The whiskies from Islay are famous for their peaty, smoky qualities and the island is home to eight whisky distilleries - more than any other island.

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J - Jigger: Absolute name for an illicit distillery.

K -Kiln: An area for drying malted barley using hot air. Traditionally, a Scottish kiln was heated by burning peat, thus proffering the strong peaty taste so oft associated with Scotch whisky, particularly that from Islay.

L -Lauter: Following Mashing, the Mash is transferred to a Lauter, which is a vessel with a sieved bottom.

M - Marrying: Occasionally bottlings are produced from one single cask - the so-called 'single single' malts. More normally, several casks of similar ages from the one distillery will be 'married' by vatting them together then maturing them further for a few months.

N -Nosing: The act of nasally enjoying a whisky. Many believe this to be the most important aspect of sampling a delicious whisky.

O -Oxidation: The reaction of whisky with oxygen, or, more broadly, the air. This is alters the flavour of whisky and there is much debate as the effects of oxidation upon an open bottle of whisky, or indeed whether a whisky matures in the bottle. Certainly, when Nosing a whisky the aromas develop after being exposed to the air.

P -Peat: A layer of earth that lays below the topsoil and consists of grasses, plants, tree roots and mosses that have been compressed over thousands of years. It is a very dense substance that when dried is used as a fuel. The peat burns with a very consistent, high temperature with a thick acrid blue smoke. Used in the whisky industry to dry malted barley, with the thick smoke being absorbed in to the grains and the flavour getting carried through the rest of the whisky making process.

Q - Quaich: Derives from the gaelic word “cuach” a drinking bowl (tureen).

An ancient two-handled Celtic drinking vessel which now is synonymous with whisky.

R -Reflux: The spirituous gases which condense and fall down into the still before they reach the condenser, thus they are re-distilled. Higher reflux proffers a more delicate, lighter spirit.

S -Speyside: The largest Scottish whisky producing region in terms of amount of distilleries. There are approximately 40 of the 90+ Scottish distilleries operating in this area. The area stretches roughly between the cities of Inverness and Aberdeen, and is named after the famous River Spey that runs through it

T -Terroir: The terroir refers to the climate, soil type and topography of the region in which a beverage is produced. It is believed the effects of the terroir upon the character of the finished beverage are high. For example, a whisky produced near the coast may have a 'salinity' present on the palate. The term was developed through French winemaking and the appellation present therein.

U -Unpeated Malt: Malted Barley that has been kilned over fires not fuelled by peat, thus with very little or no phenolic content.

V -Valinch: A large pipette used to draw spirit for sampling from a cask.

W -Washback: A large deep tub or vat in which the fermentation process takes place in a distillery. Traditionally made of wood, they are now commonly made of stainless steel.

X - X Waters: an ancient term for distilled spirits in Ireland.

Y -Yield: The amount of alcohol produced from a distillation. Technically speaking it is calculated as the quantity of alcohol produced from a ton of malt.

*Courtesy of Whisky Live

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