Whisky Glossary

» Malt
Any grain which has been made to germinate, and then been dried to arrest growth.
» Malt Whisky
Whisky that’s made purely from malted barley.
» Malting
The controlled germination and drying of grain.
» Maltings
The building used for the production of malt.
» Marrying
The process in which blended whisky is left in large containers after blending but before bottling.
» Mash
Liquid composed of grist mixed with boiling water. This extracts soluble starch, which is converted into maltose by the enzyme amylase. The liquid that is drained from the mash tun and fermented is called the worts.
» Mash Bill
The grain recipe used to make whisky.
» Mash Tun
Also known as mash tub. This is the vessel in which mashing takes place.
» Maturation
The time the whisky spends in the cask. During this time, which by law must be at least 3 years – but is usually between 8 years and 25 years, the whisky changes from the clear, fiery raw spirit into a mellow malt whisky of a colour varying from the palest yellow to the deepest amber.
» Mingling
The process in which straight whiskies from a number of barrels are mixed together in order to achieve a consistent style of straight whisky.
» New-make Spirit
Spirit which has not been matured. In Scotland whisky is only called Scotch when it has matured for 3 years.
» Nose
Refers to the aroma and bouquet of whisky.
» Organic Whisky
Following the current popular trends in food and drink, this is whisky made from barley grown in ground free from inorganic fertilizers and treated with non-chemical pesticides.
» Pagoda Roof
A style of roof on a malt kiln invented by Charles Doig, architect in the 1880’s. It has been copied by many malt whisky distillers.
» Patent Still
A device for the distillation of whisky from grain. Two column stills are used, known as the analyser and the rectifier, and the process runs continuously. It was originally invented by Robert Stein and updated to the twin-column design by Aeneas Coffey, a former Inspector-General of Excise in Ireland.
» Peat
Partially carbonised vegetable tissue similar to compacted compost. The dried, cut peat is burned beneath the vented malting floors on which the malted barley dries. Different types of plant life, in the different regions and districts, create different types of peat which impart, in turn, different flavours and character to the finished whisky.
» Peated Malt
Malt which has been partially dried over a peat fire.
» Pot Ale
Also known as burnt ale or spent wash. High-protein residue from a still, it can be mixed with draff to make animal feed.
» Pot Still
Stills used for batch distillation. In pot still distillation the liquid is distilled usually twice, sometimes three times, first in a wash still and then in a spirit still.
» Premalt
The process by which malt is added to grist before cooking.
» Rackhouse
The building in which whisky is aged, sometimes referred to as the warehouse.
» Red Layer
A layer of caramelised wood sugars that is formed when barrels are ‘toasted’ and charred.
» Reflux
Alcoholic vapour which rises up the neck of the still, then falls back before it enters the condenser, to be redistilled. Still designs increase or decrease reflux.
» Ricks
American term for the wooden structures on which barrels of whisky rest during ageing. They are also the tall stacks of sugar maple wooden planks that are burned to produce the charcoal through which Tennessee whisk(e)y is filtered.
» Rummager
In coal-fired pot stills, a mechanism that stirs up the liquid in the still to prevent solids sticking to the bottom.
» Run
The spirit coming off a still.
» Rye Whisk(e)y
(See Types of Whisky) Whisk(e)y made from at least 51% rye. Production is similar to that of Bourbon.
» Saladin Box
The vessel in which barley germinates while being mechanically turned.
» Silent Season
A period in summer of around four to six weeks when the quality of the water supply can drop during the warmer weather and distilleries usually close down.
» Single Barrel Whisk(e)y
(See Types of Whisky) American whisk(e)y which is bottled from a single case and made at a single distillery.
» Single Malt Whisky
(See Types of Whisky) Malt whisky from a single malt whisky distillery.
» Singlings
An old moonshiner word for low wines.
» Small Batch Whisky
A product of mingling select barrels of whisky that have matured into a specific style.
» Small Grains
Cereal used in the making of rye, Bourbon or Tennessee whisk(e)y that has grains smaller than those of corn (maize).
» Sour Mash Whisk(e)y
Bourbon or Tennessee whisk(e)y made using at least 25% backset, soured yeast mash and a fermentation period of at least 72 hours.
» Sour Yeast Mash
A mash, usually of corn or rye, which is ‘soured’ overnight, or to which lactic bacteria is added before yeast is cultivated therein.
» Spent Beer
See ‘Stillage’.
» Spirit Safe
A glass-fronted box through which spirit passes as it comes off the still.
» Steep
The vessel in which barley is steeped in cold water to begin germination.
» Stillage
In North America, the residue at the bottom of a still after fermentation, containing solids but no alcohol.
» Sweet Mash
In North America, mash containing no backset.
» Tails
See ‘Feints’.
» Thin Stillage
Stillage with the solids removed.
» Thumper
A doubler containing water through which low wine vapours are bubbled to produce high wines.
» Top Dressings
A high quality malt which is used to give a blend extra depth and extra character.
» Triple Distillation
Traditionally a Lowland method, triple distillation is simply another stage of distillation added to the normal double distillation process common throughout Scotland. Most Irish malt whisk(e)y is produced by triple distillation.
» Uisge Beatha
Gaelic for ‘water of life’. Over time this has been abbreviated and corrupted to ‘whisk(e)y’.
» Vatted Malt
Malt whisky blended from several distilleries. Vatted malts contain no grain whisky.
» Vatting
This is the process of mixing either malt or grain whiskies from differing distilleries.
» Wash
The alcoholic liquid that is distilled to make whisky.
» Wash Back
In Scotland, the vessel in which the worts are fermented.
» Wash Still
In pot still distillation, this is the first still. The products of the still are termed low wines.
» Wheated Bourbon
Describes Bourbon that is made from a mashbill that contains wheat instead of rye grain.
» Worm
The coiled copper tube along which vapours condense in a still.
» Worm Tub
The original form of condenser in which the alcoholic vapours condense while passing down a coiled copper tube, sunk in a tub of cold water and located outside the still house. Only 12 distilleries still have worm tubs.
» Worts
The liquid, high in fermentable starches, that is drained off the mash tun and enters the wash back for fermentation.
» Yeast Mash
When jug yeast is grown in dona tubs, cooked grains (yeast mash) are used as the growing medium. It may be ‘sweet’ or ‘sour’. Adding hops to this process produces a ‘hopped yeast mash’ which isn’t usually soured.