The Ultimate Whisky GlossaryWhisky lexicon / Whisky leksikon / Whisky Encyclopaedia / Whisky Glossary index of whisky terms
Different Whisky words or Whiskey terms..

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A Small Whisky ABC , Glossary

In the world of whisky you may bump into words that are not common !
We have tried to collect some of the whisky words or terms that may need a further explanation if you should be so lucky to bump into a book about whisky .
Further more beware : In the world of whisky words may get or have a different meaning. Smart words, look-alikes and 'slick' marketing can confuse a lot.
(Sorry to all our Danish speaking visitors - Leder du efter en forklaring på dansk så slå et smut forbi Whisky Ordlisten på dansk.)

Word Remark / explanation
Abv Alcohol By Volume is also known as abv. Abv is the alcohol strength of the whisky mesured as a percentage part in relation to the liquid as a whole. 40% abv is equal to 40% alcohol and 60% water, congeners etc.
The word alcohol is derived from Arabic
Age As stated on the label applied to the youngest whisky in the bottle.(If vatted or blended)
By law a Scotch or Irish whisky must be at least 3 years old.
The age refers to the youngest whisky - if it is a single pure malt the age refers to the years the whisky has been maturing in the cask.
A whisky do not mature in a bottle.
Ageing Whisky gets its individual character by maturing within the confines of a cask and once bottled the ageing process ends.
Alcohol Hydrocarbon compund resulting from fermentation of saccharine solutions. Forms the intoxication component of fermented and distilled liquors.
Another system of defining alcoholic strength is proof.
Amylase The enzyme that converts starch into maltose in the Mash Tun.
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.
AWA Alternative Whisky Academy - The mother of this site.
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Word Remark / explanation
Backset Peculiar to North American whiskeys, this is the shin stillage added to both the mash tub and permenter to an amount totalling no less than 25% of the overall mash. This is carried out to help orevent bacterial contaminations.
Ball of Malt A peculiarly Irish expression for a glass of whiskey.
Barley Cereal which is germinated to produce malt, the raw material from which malt whisky/whiskey is made.
Beading A rough method used to tell the alcoholic strength of a whisky. When a bottle is shaken - bubbles or beads will form. The bigger they are and longer they last the greater the alcoholic strength is of the spirit.
Beer Wort or Mash that has had yeast added which is either partly or completely fermented. Also known as Wash.
Beer still This is prim. an US Term. Also known as wash still. The first still used in the distillation process.
Blending The mixing together of a straight whiskey (pure malt, single malt, bourbon or rye) and grain whisky. In Canada the blending process allows for 9,09% to include non-Canadian whiskies (i.e. distilled fruit juices, fortified wine or whiskies from other countries.) The result is a blended whisky / whiskey.
Bond Warehouse or warehouses in which whisky stocks are held until excise duty is levied.
(Sorry not a 007 whisky.)
Bothie A small house in the Scottish Highlands. Places were sometimes used for making illicit whisky.
Bottled in Bond Northern American whiskey usually Bourbon bottled after four years in cask, at 50% abv. or more.
In UK all whisky is bottled in bond - meaning before excise duty has been paid.
Bourbon A whiskey normaly produced anywhere in the United States made from a mash of a minimum 51% corn, distilled to a strength of no more than 80% abv. (160 proof) and entered into new charred oak barrels at a strength not exceeding 62,5% abv.
Brewing The process of mashing grain in hot water and fermenting the result with yeast to produce Wash or beer.
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Word Remark / explanation

If you know candy you properly know caramel. This dark brown substance made from sugar is used as a coloring agent in some whiskies.

If your whisky gets "pale" or loose the brown color when exposed to sunlight it's proberly color adjusted with caramel.

Carring The dramatic firing og the inside of a new barrel. The contact of the flame on the oak opens fissures into which the spirit can run and from types of sugars which will assist the flavouring and colouring of the maturing spirit. The term sometimes applied to the process being carried out on old barrels in re-charring.
Cask Strength This is the strength at which the whisky comes out of the cask after maturation. This can be variable according to the age of the whisky. It is not defined by law but some companies use the term to describe whiskies which are stronger than 40 - 43% vol.
Charcoal Mellowing Specially used for Tennessee whiskey. The new spirit is filtered through charcoal before going into cask. Also known as mellowing. Ikeaching or The Lincoln County Process. Some may be filtered again after cask aging but before bottling.
Charring The inside surface of new American barrels are exposed to flames as part of the barrel-making process. This releases vanilla from the wood which sweetens the whisky, and the char itself helps remove offnotes. It does not add color to the whisky.
Cheers This is a must do when drinking whisky in good company.
If you are in Scotland or Ireland you would say 'slainte'
Chill Filtration Filtration and removal of congeners by chilling the whisky. This is a purely cosmetic precaution used to prevent hazing when the bottled whisky is stored at cold temperatures. The greater the spirit is chilled during filtration, the greater the number of congeners will be removed.
Congeners Chemical compounds found whithin whisky and formulated during fermentation, distillation and maturation carrying properties that have direct relevance to the taste and smell of the sprite. Some of the more delicate congerners can be lost during chill filtration.
Couch A second tank in which barley is placed after it has been taken from the steep and dries sufficiently before being spread on the floor. (Floor is rare nowadays.)
Cut The middle portion of the spirit coming off the spirit still. The cut is the best part of the distillate and is saved and put into barrels. The foreshots and feints are re-distilled.
Cytase Enzyme in barley that breaks down the cell walls thus making starch accessible.
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Word Remark / explanation
DCL The Distillers Company Ltd. Originaly formed out of a trade arrangement made between six Lowland Grain distillers in 1857.
Distillation Distillation is the simple precess of extraction alcohol from a fluid substance by the application of heat. Because alcohol vaporizes quicker than water, it can be collected during condensation.
The process itself may come from the old Egypt (3000 years before Christ), where sailors distilled saltwater to fresh water (removed the salt by heating up the water.).
Doubler A pot still used for the second distillation off a beer still in order to increase alcoholic strength.
Draff The Scottish term for spent grains after it has been exhausted of all sugar like properties during fermentation. Used as nutritios food for livestock.
Dram Dram also known as a Scottish term for a small glass of whisky (A Dram).
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Word Remark / explanation
Eagle Rare A whisky brand
Enzymes Carried within grain, especially after malting, action as an organic catalyst which converts large non fermentable molecules of starch into smaller, fermentable ones. During mashing, brewers must beware that the grain dows not enter the waters at to hot a temperature as these enzymes can be destroyed or damaged.
Exciseman Officer form H.M. Customs and Excise who's in charge of the controlling conformity of operations run by spirit manufacturers, distillers and of the payment of relevant duty taxes.
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Word Remark / explanation
Feints The unused end-part of a distillation run which is mostly water. (Also known as Tails.)
The flawed end portion of the run from the final distillation. Being unpotable, re-distillation is required.
Fermentation A slow decomposition of organic substance usually induced by enzymes for instance the conversion of sugars to alcohol and carbon dioxide
( C6H12O6 > 2 (C2H5OH) + 2 (CO2) ) by yeast enzymes. Distillers allow fermentation to progress to completion whereas brewers stop the process partway through. The final fermentation is taking place in the cask.
Fermenters Vessel made from either metal or wood used for the mash to be turned into beer. This is done by adding yeast which feeds of the soluble sugars ehld whithin the Wash. Because of the energy created by the activity of the yeast, fermenters are never filled to the brim. Distilleries using all malt in their fermentation use either switchers to help keep down the foam or they use temperature control.
Fillings Barrels containing spirit freshly run off the still and which is to be allowed to mature in whisky.
Foreshots The very first runnings off the still during the second distillation.
See heads.
Floor Malting The building whithin a distillery in which the pratice of malting is carried out by hand. Very few distilleries now continue this ancient pratice.
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Word Remark / explanation
Gauger The old name given to the exciseman whose job was to put down illicit distillation and smuggling.
Grain Whisky A whisky distilled by a continuous method to a high alcoholic strength from either wheat or maize and used to blend with a straight whisky.
Green Malt Barley that has begun germination but has not yet been hotair dried either by kiln or in a drum. This is sometimes used in the making of grain whisky.
Grist Precisely ground malt flour immersed in hot water to make sugar-rich mash.
Ground grains to be used in mashing.
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Word Remark / explanation
Heads Heads is the very first runnings of the still (vs. feints / tails) and undesirale distillate containing compounds even more volastile than alcohol. They are not suitable for whisky and must be re-distilled.
Heart Between Heads and Tails , the center of the distillate containing the alcohol suitable for whisky.
High Wine The alcoholic product from the first distillation which is ready to be pumped into a second still (Also known as Spirit Still) for re-distillation.
Highland Area in the Nothern Scotland
Hopped Yeast Mash A US Term. A mash flavoured by cooked hops in which yeast is propagated.
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Word Remark / explanation
Irish Whiskey Whiskey originaly from Ireland matured for at least 3 years in Ireland.
Whiskey from Ireland is spelled with an "e" - some source say it was to differ from Scotch that is spelled without an e (Whisky).
Though Whiskey with e is also to be found i US.
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Word Remark / explanation
Jigger Obsolute name for an illicit distillery
An American mesure of spirit, usually one and half fluid U.S. ounces. ( 1.5 fl. oz )
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Word Remark / explanation
Kentucky Whiskey was made as early as medieval times by Irish and Scottish monks who distilled grains in pursuit of a rejuvenating "water of life." In the early American colonies whiskey was made with rye and used as a medicine and a general aid to well-being. Kentucky settlers gave whiskey several new twists, beginning with corn, which was abundant since settlers could claim 400 acres if they built a cabin and grew a patch of corn. As early as 1775, enterprising Kentuckians were making corn whiskey. (Today, by definition, bourbon is a whiskey made from a mash containing at least 51 percent corn.) By the mid-1800s Kentucky distillers had developed other distinguishing characteristics, such as aging the whiskey in charred new barrels and using sour mash starter to gain consistent high quality from batch to batch. Some people credit the Bluegrass’ limestone water with giving bourbon its smooth taste.
Kieve The Irish term for mash tub these days rarely heard.
Kiln Room sized area for drying the malted barley. Smote from peat or coal fires below rises through a mesh floor and permeates the malt. Pegoda-head (pyramid shaped) roofs are the chimneys up which the smoke eventually passes.
Kilning In malting the process of arresting the growth of the germinationg barley before starch can be used up.
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Word Remark / explanation
Leaching One of the mist common terms applied to the filtration process carried out in Tennessee whisky, the others being charcoal mellowing, mellowing and sometimes though accurately.
The Lincoln county process : See Tennessee whisky.
Liquor Hot water that is specially prepared for the mashing process.
Lommond Still Perhaps you recall the name Lommond (Loch Lommond)
Lommond still is a type of pot still square in shape designed to produce a heavier and oilers spirit. It is named after the Lomond Distillery where it was first used.
Low wines The product of the first distillation in the wash still.
Lyne Arm Pertaining to pot stills this is the pipe which slants from the head of the still to condenser or worm along which the alcoholic vapours travel.
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Word Remark / explanation
Malt Barley whose starch content has turned to sugar. Malting is the process of bringing this about on a floor (rare) in a Saladin box (very rare) or like now in large drums.
Mash A Sweet yellow / brown liquid containing sugars extracted from the crushed grains that is cooled before passing into fermenter.
The mash is the product of the mixing of grist with hot water in the mashtun, which will eventually become wort when it will be drawn off at the end of the process. Imagine a very sweet beer without alcohol.
Mash Tub The large metal vessel in which milled grains (grist) are added to hot water in order to soluabelize all grain starch in preparation for fermentation.
Mash Tub is in Scottish also known as Mash Tun.
Mash Tun The Scottish name of Mash Tub. It is a large circular tank, usually of wood, copper, cast-iron or stainless steel in which the grist is mashed with hot water. (It is similar to the way that tea is mashed with hot water.) in order to dissolve all fermentable sugar. The tun is operated by the "mashman".
Mature or
A whisky will mature og go through maturation also known as ageing. The process through which the whisky contained in its cask acquires its character. (Like the process when wine is in the bottle - whisky will NOT mature in a bottle.). Some unfavourable components are eliminated through evaporation, at the same time as take place some complex exchanges between the spirit and the cask's wood, which are beneficial to the whisky's character and balance.
Whiskies like Macallan matures in Sherry casks and you are actually able to taste a hint of sherry !
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Word Remark / explanation
New make Newly made spirit and yet perfectly clear. Has not yet been matured and is therefore not entitled to be called whisky.
Nose Also known as the aroma of the whisky.
Noser One a distillery it is one who smells whisky usually within the distillery or for the distilling company to ensure that its quality meets the required standard.
Nosing Whisky is assessed by sniffing the aromas rather than actually tasting it.
Read more about it on our : tasting and smelling whisky page.
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Word Remark / explanation
Organic Whisky Made only from barley grown in ground free of inorganic fertilizer and a treated with non chemical peticides.
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Word Remark / explanation
Peat Compustible dark brown sometimes black fuel made from compressed vegatable matter but soft enough to be cut from bogs. Producers pungent smoke known as peat-reek which is sometimes used in the malting of barley especially on the Scottish island of Islay. Water used indistilaltion that has run over peat will also pick up certain peaty character traints.
Peated Malt Malt whisky showing strong smoky flavour characteristics peculiar to the spirit made from barley kiln dried with peat.
Pot still A Classic still for double.distilling malt whisky.
Containers usually made of copper occasionally stainless steel used for the purpose of distilling.
Price What is the price and value of whisky
It's an open market , try to check some of our hints on this page.
Proof A system of defining alcoholic strength. Proof spirit is that which at a temperature of 51F (11,5C) weighs twelve thirteenths that of an equal volume of distilled water at the same temperature. and this is said to be 100% Proof.
Such a mixture would be 57,1 % alcohol and 42,9% water.
The measurement of proof gallons has now given way to liters of pure alcohol. One LPA (Litres of pure Alcohol) beeing 0,386 imperial proof gallons. The new European Union standard is more logical system of expressing alcoholic strength as per centage volume. In another word the it is the volume of alcohol in a mixture expressed as a percentage of the total volume of the mixture. Standard bottlings are now usually made at 40% alcohol by volume, the legal minimum strength for whisky.
You may also se bottlings marked as 80 proof and 40% vol alcohol or 80% abv = 160 Proof
Se also IOLM (International Organisation of Legal Metrology) and Proof Gallon.

The alcohol content of spirits is usually given in terms of "proof", an archaic term inherited from early distillers of fermentation alcohol.
In England the "proof" was to pour some of the spirit over gunpowder, and ignite the spirit; at or above a limiting concentration (eleven parts of alcohol by volume to ten parts of water) the gunpowder would explode. Inasmuch as volumes were much easier to measure accurately than weights, before the development of precise balances and scales, this cumbersome measurement of alcohol persisted, even though there is a considerable volume change on mixing ethyl alcohol (ethanol) with water.
What they mean by the volume change is that if you add x ml alcohol to y ml water, the resultant mixture is NOT x+y ml. This meant that in many instances, the calculation of proof was very approximate and not very accurate, especially if they diluted the spirit at any time. Spirits on sale are usually 40% alcohol or around that area. 40% is 70 proof.
In the US the proof is twice the alcohol content by volume, thus 188° proof contains 94% alcohol by volume.
A simple calculation should tell you that 100 proof is around 50% alcohol - but do check that!
By the way, the word alcohol is derived from Arabic
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Word Remark / explanation
Quaich Derives from the gaelic word "cuach" a drinking bowl (tureen).
An ancient two-handled Celtic drinking vessel which now is synonymous with whisky.
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Word Remark / explanation
Rare Sales trick - indicates that it is not produced in the same quantity or perhaps that it is from a dismalted or closed distillery.
Refill Refers normaly to casks which have already been used once for whisky and are being pressed into service again.
In private it may be the most used "word" you would use when visiting the bartender.
Rummager Only found in coal fired pot stills, a mehanical devise consisting of arms and chains which fotate within the bottom of the still in order to prevent solids sticking to the botton and burning in the direct heat.
Run Run or Runnings is the colourless spirit at various strengh and purity which passes from the still through the spirit safe via the condensing apparatus.
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Word Remark / explanation
Saladin Box Trough-like container, named after its French inventor, in which barley germinates while being turned by mechanical rather than manual means.
Scotch In order to be called or named Scotch a whisky must be at least 3 years old , matured for at least 3 years IN Scotland.
Scotch Whisky is spelled without an "e" (Whiskey) - So if you find a bottle with title Scotch Whiskey it is proberly some kind of copy product.
Silent season Annual summertime lay-off period in distilleries when production was suspended due to lack of water.
Slainte Cheers in Gaelic - Slainte Mhor is after what we have been told same as "Cheers even more" or a return of Slainte back.
Spirit Still The Spirit Still is the second still (or perhaps even the third - when a whisky is triple distilled) which takes the high wines from the previous still and re-distils them.
It is from this final distillation that the potable spirit is entered into cask.
Steep Tank found at a maltings in which barley is soaked » steeped « in cold water to begin the process of germination and then malting.
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Word Remark / explanation
Tails Also known as Feints. The last runnings of a still, weak alcohol.
Taste Why does a whisky taste the way it do ?
Thin Stilage The alcohol free liquid that remains when solids have been removed from the stillage.
Thumber A type of doubler contain water which vapours from the beer still passes through causing a noisy thumping effect.
This is normaly a US term the low wine vapours and are bubbled to produce high wines.
Top Dressings High quality malt used to give a blend extra depth and character. (This could eg. be an Islay whisky from Scotland.)
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Word Remark / explanation
Uisge beatha The Scottish / Scots Gaelic for aqua vitae also known as Water of Life in modern terms known as Aquavitae or in Danish as Akvavit. from the first part of which the word whisky derives.
Uisge Beatha is the Gaelic name meaning water of life (Also known as Aqua Vitae) and the derivative term for whisky. Uisce was corrupted to uisgey and then whisky.
(Try to drink A LOT of whisky - Put 2 fingers in your mouth and then try to say uisge = It may sound like whisky.)
Underback Underback is the intermediate vessel, situated right below the mashtun, through which the hot wort flows before entering the cooler which will bring it down to the adequate temperature required for fermentation.
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Word Remark / explanation
Value Now a days it is very difficult to set a value on a whisky / whiskey.
If you are searching for a value and valuation of your old bottle of whisky try out ?
Do you have an old, dusty bottle of Scotch whisky tucked away somewhere that you've always wanted to value?
Glenfiddich instant valuation tool holds the prices that many brands of whisky have fetched when recently bought at auction.
Try the online valuation at .
Vatting A term used for the mixing together malt whisky from a distillery or different distilleries. Likewise with grain whisky.
Vatted malt A blend of malt whiskies from two or more individual distilleries - entirely from malt whisky but from more than one distillery.
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Word Remark / explanation
Wash Wort after being fermented in the washback. Normally a liquid containing 7-8% alcohol which is sent to the wash still for the first distillation.
See also Beer.
Wash Still Does the same job as the continuous beer still. it it the first pot still used in the distillation process, producing high wines to be re-distilled in the spirit still.
Whiskey Different spelling of whisky, usually associated to products from Ireland or USA.
The change in spelling was to differ Irish / American whiskey from Scotch whisky.
Whisky Spirit obtained from the distillation of a mash of cereals at a strength lower than 94.8% normaly matured for a minimum of 3 years in an oak cask whose capacity should not exceed 700 litre and bottled at a strength of not less than 40% abv.
Worm A coil of copper tubing which is the continuation of the swan-neck top fo the spirit still. It passes through a tub of cold water which causes the distillation vapours to condense into liquid.
Most of the distilleries prefers these days to use condensers also made of copper tubes, but smaller in area used through not being coiled.
Wort Wort is the liquid which is drawn off from the mash tun. A liquid containing the fermentable sugars derived from the malt in solution.
In other words it is the liquid high in dissolved sugars which is the product of the mash tun. - a liquid sweetened usualy by malt by mashing and is cooled before entering the Wash back for fermentation.
See also Beer and Wash.
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Word Remark / explanation
X Waters X-waters is an ancient term for distilled spirits in Ireland.
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Word Remark / explanation
Yeast A living micro organism of the fungi family essential for the purpose of fermantation. Feeding on sugar it produces alcohol and carbondioxide as a by product.
Yield Yield is the final output calculated in quantity of pure alcohol obtained from one ton (1000 kilogram) of malt.
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Word Remark / explanation
Zzz.. The sound you'll make after drinking to much whisky.
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Word Remark / explanation
# / No. / Numbers
3 Years a Scotch whisky must be stored/mature in Scotland to legaly be called Scotch
or Irish whiskey must be stored/mature in Ireland to legaly call itself Irish whiskey.
12 12 Years is a very common age for Whisky to mature in order to obtain the best taste.
Some may be better even younger or older - but in average 12 years fits most types of malt whisky.
1000+ Daily unike ip-hits / visitors on this site.
2000 The number lots of spirits used on the bottles - Guess there must be : A Special Millenium Year 2000 Whisky out there somewhere.
Eg. you will find a millenium bottling of the six classic malts of scotland.
158919 The number of hits in 1999 on this site. (Thanx.)
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AWA - Alternative Whisky Academy is a private, none-commercial, no-profit, none-selling whisky society.