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A Starter Guide To Fancy Whisky Terms
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A Starter Guide To Fancy Whisky Terms

The whisky world can be an intimidating one, especially for newcomers. Here’s a guide that clears up the weird terms (‘Does ‘neat’ just mean a tidy glass?’) and provides some ideas of where to start on your whisky journey.

Here are a few key terms that’ll make you feel less like a novice:

How it’s made

Cask finish: This is when whisky is taken from one cask and is transferred to a second (or even third) cask to change the flavour and make it a little richer.

Cask strength: Whiskey bottled at a higher alcohol by volume (ABV) strength.

Charring: When the inside of the barrel has been set on fire to change the flavour of the whisky that is stored in it. This is done a lot in the production of bourbons like Jim Beam Double Oak Bourbon 700mL.

Distillation: The process of heating liquid until the alcohol evaporates and condenses and separates.

Grist: The process of grinding malted barley, which is used in the mashing process.

Malt: Barley that has been fermented for partial germination.

Maturation: When whisky is left in barrels to soak up the flavours of the barrel.

Peaty: When barley is toasted over a peat fire to make malt, it absorbs smoke. This makes for a flavoursome whisky.

The way you drink it

Dram: A unit of measurement for fancy whisky, about the same amount as a shot (you might hear this word used in Scotland).

Neat with a drop of water: Adding a few drops of water to whisky to open up different flavours.

Neat: Whisky served at room temperature in a glass.

On the rocks: Whisky on ice!

What you taste

Blended whisky: The mix of different whiskies from different distilleries, like Grants Scotch Whisky 1 Litre.

Blended malt whisky: A mix of malt whiskies from various distilleries, a fine example being the Chivas Ultis.

Cooperage: Coopers build, repair and prepare the oak barrels the whisky is aged in. It’s said that that’s where a lot of the flavour comes from. Some even add extra staves to the barrel, such as in Makers Mark 46 750mL.

Expression: One type of whisky from the same brand. This could be different ages or types in a range, like the Glenfiddich IPA Cask Finish Single Malt Whisky 700mL.

Nosing: Tasting with your nose! This means smelling a whisky to ascertain its flavour profile. For example the Lagavulin 16YO Malt Whisky 700mL is smoky with sweet spices and hints of vanilla and mature sherry.

Palate: Drinking the whisky to determine its flavours. If you try the Talisker Storm Single Malt Scotch Whisky 700mL you can expect a warm beginning with some wood smoke followed by a briny, peppery finish.

Single cask or barrel: Whisky bottle from a single cask, a great example of this is Jack Daniels Single Barrel 700mL.

Single malt whisky: Malt whisky made from a single distillery that is made exclusively from malted barley, such as The Glenlivet 15YO Single Malt Scotch Whisky 700mL.

Whisky or Whiskey: If it’s from Scotland, Canada or Japan there is no ‘e’ and if it’s from America or Ireland then there is! Check out The Chita Japanese Whisky or Jameson Black Barrel Irish Whiskey 700mL.