Alcohol by volume (ABV)
The amount of alcohol in a liquid, expressed as a percentage. Whisky mustn’t be less than 40% and the strength might be as high as the high 60s – where the liquid contains two thirds alcohol and one third water.
In certain conditions, and nearly always in Scotland, the strength of a maturing spirit will go down over time and this is because a percentge of the spirit will evaporate, and more alcohol than water will evaporate. The ‘disappearing’ spirit is known as the angels’ share.
Oak cask containing 180 to 200 litres of spirit and most commonly used in american whiskey production.
Single malt whisky is made in batches.. a proportion of grain is converted in to beer and then distilled and at the end of the process a fresh batch is prepared. In grain whisky production a continuos still is used.
Term adopted in recent years to describe a mix of malt whiskies from different distilleries but with no grain whisky, so blended malts are not the same as blended whiskies. The old term was vetted malt.
Name of the large cask used for sherry maturation and then sometimes used for whisky maturation. Butts can contain 5600 litres of spirit.
Generic tern for the oak container used to mature whisky. Casks come in various different sizes.
Whisky makers may choose to recast their spirit in a cask used for an array of other drinks including rum, port, madeira and various wines. This is known as ‘finishing’.
The strength of whisky when it is taken from the cask. This is normally significantly higher than the strength whisky is bottled at but there has been a trend to bottling whisky at cask strength in recent years.
The still used in grain production and for the production of some world styles of whisky. It is used in continuous distillation and may also be known as a continuous still or a Coffey still, after the person who perfected its use.
Typically a tube around the still pipes through which cold water can flow. When vapour passes through the still the cool water will turn the spirit back to liquid. The traditional condenser was known as a worm tub – see w
A more factory-like way of distilling in which grain is forced down a column still and stream at extremely high temperatures due to pressure passes up the still, evaporating the alcohol, which in turn is re-condensed and drawn off.
During the second distillation in Scotland the distiller will make cuts to decide which high alcohols are rejected at the start, which part of the distillate is collected for casking, and which part of the final weaker alcohols are rejected.
Scottish name for the spent grain removed from the mash tun and sold off as highly nutritious animal feed.
Modern way of malting barley. Traditionally malt would have been laid out on maltings floors, watered and tricked in to growing and then dried over heat. The drum maltings are turned to keep the grain separate and warm air passed over them to dry them.
During second distillation the last part of the run contains weaker and not particularly nice taking alcohols. These are rejected and are known as feints, aftershots, or tails.
For most malt whisky production a cask which has contained another alcoholic drink is used. The first time it is used to contain whisky spirit it is known a s a first fill cask – and typically the effects of the remnant drink on the malt spirit will be more pronounced than a second fill, third fill and so on.
During second distillation the first part of the run, containing the highest and least pleasant tasting alcohols, are rejected. These are know as fore shots or heads.
During the second distillation that the distiller must divide the evaporating spirits in to three separate parts. The first alcohol to boil off is the strongest and by definition the most volatile. It also contains compounds that are at best unpleasant tasting and at worst poisonous, and these need to be rejected. So the first part of the distillation is collected separately and is known as the heads or the foreshots.
After the first distillation the distiller hard a low alcohol with an alcoholic strength of about 25%-22%. This is mixed with the rejected alcohols from the previous second distillation, bringing up the alcohol strength to the high 20s. The rarely used name for this mix is high spirits.
Oak casks used for the maturation of whisky. a hogshead contains 250 litres of spirit and is often made up from reassembling an American barrel with additional staves and larger heads. Re-made or dump hogsheads refer to American bourbon barrels that have been taken apart, transported to Scotland, and then remade using a proportion of new staves and new heads to give them a capacity of 250 litres, bigger than the original 200 litre barrel. Hogsheads are the most common type of cask used in Scotland.
Irish pot still whiskey
Pure pot still whiskey as whiskey made from a mash using both malted and unmalted barley and then distilled using batch pot stills. Examples would be Green Spot and Redbreast. Irish whiskey made using just malted barley is not the same drink and should be known as Irish single malt whiskey. The best example of this would be Bushmills.
Immature Spirit Act
The Act of 1915 stating that spirit had to be matured for two years before it could be sold. It was introduced to reduce alcohol consumption and it did badly damage the producers of raw spirit using the continuous Coffey Still to make grain whisky.
A proportion of whisky earmarked for blending can become surplus to requirements. This may be bought up by independent companies who bottle it under umbrella names. These bottles are to official bottles what bootleg recordings are to official releases.
Also commonly known as maize. Once the most common ingredient in whisk(e)y, corn was originally used to make grain whisky in Scotland though wheat is now more commonly used, and a necessary 51 per cent ingredient in bourbon. Irish whiskey has also used corn in the past but it has been in decline.
Pronounced Eye-la, this is the Scottish West coast island famous for peated whiskies such as Ardbeg, Laphroaig and Bowmore. The island has eight distilleries in total.
Originally this was a name for an illicit distillery but it fell in to disuse. However there are some that use it as an American measure of spirit, normally one and a half ounces.
An old Irish name for the mash tun
American term for the charcoal mellowing process in the production of some American whiskey – see main feature
Lincoln county process
This is what separates Tennessee whiskey from bourbon. Known also as charcoal mellowing or leaching. It’s the process of passing the new make spirit – known as white dog in America – through three metres of hardwood charcoal before it can be filled in the barrel.This process is not used when making bourbon, though you will find bourbon bottles with the words ‘charcoal filtered’ on them. In these cases the whiskey is filtered through charcoal after it has matured in the barrel, removing impurities and debris from the finished whiskey. In the Lincoln County Process the charcoal process is carried out before the whisky goes to cask, and it impacts directly on the flavour.
Name for the hot water in the mashing process
Type of still used to some extent in the 60s. the still had a series of removable plates so that the amount of interaction between copper and spirit could be varied, producing different styles of new make spirit. The stills became clogged up and were difficult to clean so they fell in to disuse.
After the first distillation has taken place in the wash still the liquid produced is known as low wines. It has an alcoholic strength of about 20%-23% ABV and is mixed with the rejected spirit from the last second distillation before it goes forward to the spirit still.
At the top of a pot still is an arm that connects the still to the condenser and through which evaporated spirit must pass. This is known as the lyne arm and its size, position and the angle it is connected at will all affect the amount of spirit that can pass through it and therefore the taste of the re-condensed spirit.
Any grain that has been ‘tricked’ in to starting to grow and then dried to stop further germination. The process prepares the grain for fermentation by unlocking the sugars and starches contained in the grain
Whisky made using only malted barley, yeast and water
The process of tricking a grain into growing and then controlling its germination
The building where malting takes place
The process of mixing different whiskies together in huge containers. May be used for blended whiskies but also for combining different malt casks too
Name for the mix of boiling water and grist – ground grain – which is rich in fermentable starches
Mash bill – in American whiskey production the mash is made up of three or more grains. The mash bill refers to the proportion of each grain in the mix
The vessel in which hot water is added to the grist to make the mash
The process of soaking grist in hot water to extract fermentable starch
The process of ageing malt spirit in an oak cask. In Europe maturation must be for a minimum of three years, straight bourbon requires two years, and there are considerable variations elsewhere.
The conversion of dried malt in to a rough flour known as grist before mashing takes place
To complete the malting process, the malt must be dried. traditionally this was done over firs made up of peat, and the peat imparted the big smoky flavours which characterise some malts, especially from the islands and the the island of Islay.
The term used to refer to the chemical phenols which give a whisky its smoky, medicinal qualities.
Distilled Irish spirit, often made illegally and mainly from potatoes, but now used by some Irish producers to describe unaged malt spirit, released on the back of the American trend towards ‘white whiskies’
Name given to the large copper heating vessel used in the production of malt whisky. it is effectively a large kettle designed to heat malt wash and separate alcohol from water.
Parts per Million, used to measure how peated and therefore how phenolic malted barley is.
Exactly twice the alcohol by volume (ABV) figure used is Europe. So wild Turkey 101 is 50.5% proof.
Proof (United Kingdom)
Old term of measurement for alcoholic strength of a liquid. 100 Proof is the point where gunpowder would catch fire when soaked in it – and is the equivalent of 57.1% ABV
Name given to a large oak cask capable of contain ing 500 litres of spirit and used for whisky maturation.
Name given to a key part of the equipment used in the continuous still process.
As malt spirit passes up the copper still the heavier spirits will not reach the top, and effectively falls back to be redistilled. This is reflux and it can be controlled by various factors in the process, including the shape and size of the still, giving the distiller control over whether to make a full flavoured or lighter spirit.
During single malt distillation the run is the length of the distillation process.
Specific type of industrial malting equipment used for drying commercially produced malt.
Rare name for backset in American whiskey production: the proportion of sour spent grain returned in to the production process. There are a number of other ‘s’ words for this too: slops, stillage, and spent beer backset
Whisk(e)y bottled from a single barrel containing the produce of a single distillery
In American whiskey the mash is dominated by one grain and made up of normally two others. These are other grains are known as small grains.
American name given to the grains at the end of the production process that have been stripped of all their sugars – hence sour
Sour mash process
Process used in American whiskey production by which spent grains known as backset are reintroduced to the production process to neutralise bacteria.
Name given to the vessel for distillation. for double distilled single malt whisky the stills are normally referred to as a wash still and a spirits still.
New and fresh grains used for fermentation and distillation with no backset present.
The Gaelic words for ‘water of life’ and the root for the anglicised word ‘whisky’.
The mixing of whisky from several different casks and even from several different distilleries. Vatted whisky is the old and now redundant tern for ‘blended whisky.
Word tho describe the distillery beer created by adding yeast to work and fermenting. Wash normally has an alcoholic strength of 7%-9% and is sour.
The vessel in which wort is put and yeast added to start fermentation to produce wash.
The sweet brown liquid produced by washing out the sugars and enzymes from grain grist by flushing it with hot water and draining off the spent husks.
Traditional method of condensing spirit back to liquid, it is typically a copper pipe lying flat and snaking up and down through a large vat of cold water.