SCOTCH WHISKY: By law, Scotch whisky must be matured for at least three years and a day in oak casks before it can be defined as whisky
SINGLE MALT: Single malt whisky is whisky made from three ingredients (malted barley, water and yeast) distilled at a “single” distillery. It is not blended or mixed with other distilleries’ whisky.
DRAM: A generous measure of whisky, to be enjoyed with friends. Distillery workers would receive break time drams of freshly made spirit, straight from the still, a treat now consigned to the past.
CASK STRENGTH: Some whiskies are taken straight from their cask and bottled at natural alcohol strength – in the region of 50-59 per cent.
CASK TYPE: Usually two types of casks are used to mature whisky: former American bourbon casks and sherry casks from Jerez. Each type imparts a unique flavour profile to the maturing spirit – lighter vanilla/citrus notes from the bourbon cask and richer spicier dried fruits from sherry casks.
PEAT: The earthy, smoky, often medicinal flavour in some whiskies comes from peat, which is burnt in kilns underneath batches of malted barley. When the barley is turned into whisky, it retains the smoky characteristics of the peat.
POT STILLS: Like huge copper kettles these lantern-shaped vessels are used to distill whisky, from its raw form into a clear spirit of around 64 per cent ABV. It is then matured in oak casks for a minimum of three years to obtain its rich colour, aroma and flavour.
ANGELS’ SHARE: Each year, the slumbering casks of maturing whisky in the distillery warehouses lose around 1.5 – 2 per cent of their volume through evaporation. This helps the whisky mature properly and is known as the “Angels’ Share”.
THE LEGS: Swirl a glass of single malt and a line of fine beads will form around the rim, which fall slowly back into the dram, forming ‘legs’. Thicker, slower forming legs often indicate a more viscous, mouth-filling whisky.
SPEYSIDE: The whisky heartland of Scotland. The Speyside region is part of the north-eastern Highlands and comprises of around 50 working distilleries, including some of the most well known names in whisky distillation, including the Glenlivet, Cardhu and the Macallan.
TOASTING FRIENDS: The traditional Gaelic toast is Slainte Mhath! (pronounced “Slangee Vaa”) which means good health.