Wisely if Sincerely
Wisely if Sincerely
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Welcome to Greg Dawson's Single Malt Scotch Whisky Bar!

Glossary of Terms

Barrel: A 150 liter cask.

Blended whisky: Combining different grains to make a whisky.

Butt: A 375 liter cask.

Cask: Since 1916, all Scotch whisky must be aged in an oak cask for at least 3 years. The oak can be American, French or Spanish in origin and the cask might be new or might have been used to hold almost anything before. Some, such as those in which Sherry had been shipped to the U.K.,or America's Bourbon casks (which by law can only be used once) were found to impart a pleasing quality of their own to the finished whisky. So what began as a legal obligation and ecomonic make-do measure, transformed into a valued enhancement. Today Sherry is shipped to Britain almost exclusively in bottle, but the use of sherrywood casks for aging contines unabated. Some distilleries have expanded and varied their maturation program to include finishing in wood used previously for rum, port, brandy or even madeira!

Cask Strength: The industry standard for the initial strength Scotch whisky when it is put in cask is 63.4% by volume. In wood the spirit loses strength at the rate of up to 2% a year (this is called the "Angel's Share"). Before bottling, water will usually be added to bring this down to about 43% for export strength. When this last step is omitted, a bottled may be labeled as Cask Strength. Our own experience makes us feel that such whisky, at least when over 50% or so, usually reveals more complexity when cut with at least some distilled or good spring water.

Cold Stabilization: The phenomenum known as "chill haze"causes certain fatty compounds in a whisky to solidify below a certaintemperature. This can result in clouding when ice is added to the glass.In order to avoid this, most producers will pass their whisky through a chilling coil before bottling. This eliminates these compounds but unfortunately strips the whisky of many of the long molecular chains formed during itscask maturation which gives it so much of its complexity and character both in aroma and flavor. We applaud the producers and merchant bottlers who forego this practice.

Feints and Foreshots: Respectively the end and the beginning of the pot distillation process. Foreshots contain unpalateable esthers while the feints are mostly water. Both are redistilled with the next batch of low wines.

Grain Whisky: Made from malted barley (needed for certain enzymes it alone contains) combined with unmalted barley and/or corn. Usually fermented in a column still (also known as a patent or Coffey still.)

Hoghead: A 400 liter cask.

Malt: Barley prepared by steeping, germinating and drying.

Mash: This is done in a vessel, known as the mash tun, in which the malted barley (and other ingredients in the case of blended or grain whisky) is steeped in hot water and converted into a syrupy liquid, known as wort. This wort is then fermented while the remainder of the grain mass(the spent grain) makes first class cattle feed.

Middle Cut: The wholesome center of a pot distilling run, separate from the feints and foreshots, kept for aging into whisky.

Peat Reek: Originally peat was the only fuel available, in largely unforested Scotland, to dry the malt. It imparted a distinct, pungent, phenolic character to the product which helps balance the syrupy flavor of the malt.

Single Malt: Whisky made entirely from malt at a single distillery and fermented in a traditional pot still.

Slàinte: (Pronounced "slawn'") Gaelic for "Cheers".

Slàinte Mhath: (Pronounced "slawn'-cha-va") Gaelic for Good Health. The reply would be Slàinte Mhor - Great Health.

Still: A device which changes a lower strength solution into a higher one by heating it and separating the lighter vapors that result from the heavier ones. In producing Scotch whisky, a kind of beer, referred to as low wines, is transformed in this way, either by a single run through a continuous, or Coffey still (for grain whisky) or by two or three runs through a pot still. The three-run, or triple distilled method, is the traditional method in the Lowlands. A large part of a malt whisky's character results from the configuration of this essential piece of equipment. So much so that certain distilleries, when replacing a worn-out still, will try to recreate the old model right down to its dents!

Vatted Whisky: The blending of 2 or more Sinlge Malt Scotches.

Wash Back: The vessel in which yeast is added to the cooled wort. The sugar in the wort is converted into CO2 and alcohol, resulting in a flat beer-like liquid, known as low wines. This in turn is distilled into spirit.

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