Whisky’s ABC (Part 2)
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Whisky’s ABC (Part 2)

More whisky terms to know… D-M (continued)

Distillation: The process of heating an alcoholic substance until the alcohol evaporates. The alcohol is then condensed. This is the basis of all spirit production and relies on the fact that alcohol evaporates at 78.29°C, below the boiling point of water, thus should the right heat be applied the alcohol will evaporate without the water and, when condensed, one is left with a far more alcoholic liquid.

Double Distillation: A process whereby an alcoholic liquid is distilled twice, this is standard practice in whisk(e)y production, save for a few examples, including, though not limited to, the Scottish Lowlands and Ireland.

Doubler: A second pot still used for a second distillation.

Dram: A Scottish term for a measure of spirits, particularly whisky. The term is said to originate from the Greek ‘Drachma’ which refers to the apothecary measurement of sixty grains, equal to 1/8 ounce.

Drum Malting: The modern method of malting barley. It entails a large drum which is turned constantly until the malting process is complete.

Source: http://rbwhiskey.com

Photo: http://rbwhiskey.com

Dunnage Warehouse: A traditional type of warehouse. These are quite short buildings, with a slate roof, an earthen floor and thick walls made of stone or brick. These are stacked no more than three barrels high and provide superior air circulation. The floor allows more moisture and thus higher humidity. This are said to provide a better whisky, though running costs are much higher, and barrels must be hand moved.

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

European Oak:

Type 1. Also known as Pedunculate Oak and found widely across Europe. This is often used in brandy and sherry cooperage. It is fast growing with high levels of tannins.

Type 2. Sessile Oak, often used in wine cooperage. This is slower growing than Pedunculate Oak, with finer tannins and a high vanillin content.

Excise Duty: A tax imposed on produced spirits.

Exciseman: An Officer of H.M. Customs and Excise. An Exciseman is responsible for regulating the manufacturers’ operations and payment of Excise tax.

Feints (aka Tails or Aftershots): The unusable end of a distillation run, undrinkable even to the most hardened drinker.

Fermentation: The conversion of sugar into carbon dioxide and ethyl alcohol with the addition of yeast enzymes. The yeast is a living organism which feeds upon the sugar, the carbon dioxide and ethyl alcohol are by-products. When the alcoholic content reaches a certain level, the yeast dies.

Fermenter: (see Washback)

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

Finished: (see Cask Finish)

Floor Maltings: Floor maltings are buildings at a distillery in which barley is malted by hand. These are very rare as the process can now be done industrially, without being so labour-intensive. The Bowmore distillery is an example of a distillery whose floor maltings are still in use.

Foreshots (aka Heads): The first part of the second distillation run.

Golden Promise: A type of barley first available in 1968. It boasts a sturdy straw as well an early maturation (as early as July, compared to Optic barley’s August harvest time). It was massively popular and peaked when it enjoyed 90% of the barley market share during the 1970s. It has since been overtaken by newer strains of barley, but continues to be the sole choice for the Glengoyne and Macallan distilleries.

Grain Whisk(e)y: Whisk(e)y produced from cereal grains, distilled in a continuous still to a higher alcohol strength. It is much cheaper to produce and has a much higher yield, thus it forms the base of the majority of Blended Whisky.

Green Malt: Green malt is barley that has begun the process of germination, though it has yet to bet dried.

Grist: A flour used in the mashing process. Grist is produced by finely grinding malted barley.

Grist Mill: A device used to grind barley into flour.

Photo: http://www.derechoenzapatillas.org

Photo: http://www.derechoenzapatillas.org

Hard Water: Water with a very high mineral content. Usually this consists of calcium and magnesium ions. Hard water occurs when the water travels over softened rock.

Heads: (see Feints)

Heart: The middle part of the first distillation.

Hogshead: A large barrel, made from oak and used to mature spirit. The capacity of a hogshead was standardized first in an act of Parliament in 1423. The size now varies depending on the industry, for example a Sherry hogshead is slightly larger than a standard Madeira barrel. A wine hogshead of today is around 238.7 liters.

Kentucky Bourbon: Bourbon can be produced anywhere in America, though Kentucky is the only state which can put the name of the state on the label.

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 often associated with Scotch whisky, particularly that from Islay.

Kilning: The process of drying malted barley to prevent further germination of the barley, retaining the correct amount of starch.

Photo: http://www.telegraph.co.uk

Photo: http://www.telegraph.co.uk

Lauter: Following Mashing, the mash is transferred to a lauter, which is a vessel with a sieved bottom.

Lomond Still: The Lomond still is a type of modified pot still. It proffers a heavier spirit. There is an additional condenser fitted at the head of the still. It was first developed in 1955 by a chemical engineer from Hiram Walker, by the name of Alistair Cunningham. It was created to allow the production of whiskies of varying character at one distillery, thus allowing a single distillery to provide a blender with a range of blending components.

Low Wines: Low Wines are produced in the first distillation in a wash still.

Lyne Arm: An arm, which extends from the top of the still, connecting the still with the condenser.

Malt: Barley which has been afforded a partial germination before kilned. The malted barley is then ground to a fine flour, or grist.


  1. The process of steeping mixing grist with hot water to release the sugars which are present in the grain.
  2. The term for the mix of grist and hot water.

Mash Bill: A mash bill is the list of grains and proportions thereof in American whiskey production. A mash bill will typically consist of three or four grains including Corn, Wheat, Rye and Barley.

Mash Tub: (see Mash Tun)

Mash Tun: A large vessel in which the grist is combined with hot water thus allowing the fermentable sugars to dissolve.

Mashman: A distillery worker who tends to the mash tun.

Master Blender: The chief blender, it is his or her job to mix the whisk(ie/ey)s together and maintain a consistent product. A skilled master blender can produce a whisk(e)y wherein the sum is greater than the parts.

Maturation: The ageing process of whisk(e)y. Whisk(e)y can only be aged within an oak cask, it is widely believed that whisk(e)y does not age in the bottle.

Micro Distillery: The advent of the micro distiller is a more recent happening. A micro distillery is a small-scale operation, with few expenses spared, and focuses on quality over quantity.

Monkey Lump (aka Monkey Shoulder): The hunch that develops on the backs of distillery workers who spend a great deal of their time manually turning barley during the malting process.