Whisk(e)y 101: The ABCs of Whisk(e)y

16-06-2017 By Whizzky Staff Writer

ABV – Alcohol By Volume. This is the standard measure of how much alcohol is contained in a given volume of an alcoholic beverage. It is the alcohol strength of the whisky expressed as a percentage e.g. 40%

Age – this is the age of the youngest whisky in the bottle.

American Oak –a type of oak widely used in a whisk(e)y cooperage to make barrels to store maturing whisky.

Angel’s Share – The whisky that evaporates from the barrels during maturation.


Barley –a type of cereal grain used to make whisky. Scotch single malts use barley, exclusively.

Barrel – a barrel is a large vessel made from oak to store maturing whisky.

Blended Malt - a combination of malt whiskies from more than 1 distillery.

Blended Whisky - this is a whisky combined with grain whisky.

Body – this is the mouth feel of a whisky.

Bourbon - American whiskey distilled from a minimum of 51% corn, distilled to no more than 80% abv, filled into new charred oak barrels at no more than 62.5% abv.

Butt – a large cask for maturing whisky with a capacity roughly twice that of a hogshead.


Cask – a wooden barrel where whisky is matured.

Cask Strength - whisky that is drawn straight from the cask for bottling.

Charring – a process in barrel making where the interior of barrels are exposed to fire. This affects the flavour and colour of the whisky.

Chill Filtering – the process of filtering whisk(e)y to remove residue and a cloudiness which appears when the spirit reaches lower temperatures. Chill-filtration involves chilling the spirit to between -10 and 4°C and then passing it through a very fine filter. At such temperatures the fatty acids, proteins and esters compound as large clumps which are too large to pass through the filter.

Cooper – a highly skilled person that builds oak casks for the maturation of spirits and other beverages.

Corn - grain used in whisk(e)y production, particularly favoured in the production of Bourbon and in America.


Distillation - The process of separating alcohol, which has a lower boiling point than water, from other liquid through the application of heat.

Dram - Scottish term for a measure of whisky served – there is no definition of the volume of a dram.

Dunnage - a traditional type of warehouse characterised by a slate roof, earthen floor and thick walls made of stone or brick.


Finish – the flavours left in the mouth after swallowing whisk(e)y.

First Fill – a first fill cask is one that has been used by another industry, sherry for example, though it has not yet been used to mature whisk(e)y.


Grain whisky –this is whisky made from cereal grains distilled in a conitinous still, normally has a high alcohol content.

Grist - the product of finely ground malted barley. Grist is the flour used in mashing.

Hogshead – this is a large oak casks used to mature whisky. The sizes varied per industry. Hogshead used to mature whiskies are traditionally 250 litre. .


Kentucky BourbonThis is bourbon from Kentucky. Kentuck is the only state that can put the name of the state on the label.

Kilning - the process of drying malted barley to prevent further germination thereof.


Malt – malt is barley that has been partially germinated by soaking in water, and then dried.

Mash – this refers to the mix of grist and hot water.

Mash bill - this is a list of grains and their proportions used to make American whisky.

Maturation - the ageing process of whisky in barrels.


New Make – this is the spirit that come out of the stills after distillation.

NAS – No Age Statement means that no age had been listed on the bottle of whisky. Without an age statement, the distiller has more flexibility in what they produce because they are not limited by age.

Nose – the action of smelling a whisky to pick up flavours.

Oak – a type of wood used to make barrels.


Palate - the taste of a whisk(e)y.

Peat - a dark, partially decayed organic matter formed in the wetlands. In whisky terms, peat refers to herby, smoky flavour of a whisky, normally from Islay.

Pot Still - a traditional still used to distil whisky.

PPM – stands for phenol parts per million. It is the measurement of phenolic content of a substance

Quaich - is a traditional Scottish drinking cup with two handles to emphasise its symbolism as the cup of friendship.


Refill – refers to a cask that has already been used to mature whisk(e)y.

Rye – a type of grain used to produce whisky usually American Whiskey. It is said to bring a spiciness to the whisky.


Single Cask - malt whisky bottling that is the product of only one individual cask, from one distillery.

Scotch - a whisky produced entirely in Scotland, matured for at least three years in oak barrels, bottled at no less than 40% abv.

Single Malt - a single malt is a whisky that has been made from one distillery without any product from other distilleries. It is also make from 100% malted barley.

Slainte – a drinking toast to good health!

Small Batch - this term denotes whisky, usually American whiskey, that is produced in small quantities.

Straight Bourbon – bourbon that has been aged for minimum two years and distilled to no more than 80% abv.

Straight Rye – rye whisky that has distilled at 51% rye, aged for minimum two years and distilled to no more than 80% abv.


Triple Distillation – the is a spirit that has been distilled 3 times, instead of the standard 2 times. A common practise in Irish whiskeys and Lowland whiskies.


Unpeated Malt – this is barley that has been kilned over fires not made from peat.


Vintage - this is the year a whisky was distilled.

Virgin Oak - oak that has not been used to mature alcoholic beverages. Bourbon is matured in virgin oaks.


Wash – wash is fermented wort, a sort of beer of about 7 to 8% abv.

White Dog – this is an American term used to refer to new make.

Wort – Liquid drawn after mashing process


Year - the year in which the whisky was bottled. Maturation stops at bottling so the year is less significant than the age of a whisky.

Yeast – an important fungus used in the fermentation of grains used to make whisky.

YO - stands for “year(s) old” and is the number of years of the youngest whisky in the bottle. Usually referred to as the age of the whisky.