16 Whiskey Terms Every Enthusiast Should Know
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16 Whiskey Terms Every Enthusiast Should Know

Learn the whiskey lingo the experts know
Read Time: 4 minutes
Jun 23, 2023

Whiskey is a popular beverage for those seeking earthy notes, complex aromas, and a wide range of flavor profiles. If you’re an enthusiast of whiskey, here are 16 terms you should know.

16 Top Whiskey Terms

Learn about the key terms in whiskey distillation, tasting, and more so you can be the expert at your next gathering.

Term #1

Malt

Malt is the sprouted, germinated grain that is used to make whiskey. Usually, it is soaked in water and then later heated to stop it from growing into a full grain plant. When malt is made into whiskey, it can add a sweet flavor in addition to the bitterness of the liquor.

a lineup of cherries, bitters, and whiskey on bar countertop

Term #2

Grist

Grist is used during the distillation process. This term describes the malted barley that is ground into fine pieces and separated from the rest of the grain during the grinding process.

Term #3

Peaty

Peat can be used in the distillation process to give the whiskey a smoky, earthy flavor. This whiskey-making method was originally used by the Scottish when they had no other barley to burn. The word peaty describes whiskeys that have been cooked over a fire to maintain the smoky flavors.

two bottles of whiskey and a filled glass of whiskey on table

Term #4

New Make Spirit

Before a whiskey has been sent to the barrels or can be technically classified as whiskey, it’s considered a “new make spirit.” This is an unaged, young spirit that hasn’t quite matured enough to reach the rich, dark flavor notes you can expect of a mature whiskey.

Term #5

Heather

Heather is a shrub that has pink and purple flowers and commonly found in Scotland. It’s often used in the whiskey distillation process and some whiskey-tasting experts claim they can smell the notes of the heather in a drink.

Term #6

Whiskey vs. Whisky

There is quite a debate worldwide about whether whiskey should be spelled with our without the letter e. In Ireland and America, you spell whiskey with an e. However, in countries such as Scotland, Japan, and Canada, the e in whiskey is usually left out. It is said by some that the original name did not have an e but that the British added one; Ireland and later the Americas followed suit. However, it can be spelled whichever way you prefer.

four glasses of whiskey and two bottles on countertop

Term #7

Small Batch

Small batch simply means whiskey that is not produced on a large scale. A small batch is a literal term used by whiskey drinkers used to describe localized whiskey that hasn’t been mass-produced.

Term #8

Master Blender

A Master Blender is a person at a distillery who makes the decisions regarding whiskey composition, selecting barrels, and making sure that blends are consistent. At smaller distilleries, the Master Blender is also the Master Distiller, who is responsible for managing the distillation process and ensuring a good final product.

three bottles of exceptional blend whiskey and four glasses on countertop

Term #9

Dram

A whiskey dram is a measure of whiskey. Usually, a dram is the size of a typical shot or one-eighth of a fluid ounce. In Scotland, the term is more often used by whiskey drinkers to describe a small amount of whiskey.

Term #10

Feints

Feints are the whiskey left at the very end of the distillation process. They’re typically redistilled with low wine in order to balance out the flavors. Feints are generally very bitter, more bitter than even many whiskey enthusiasts prefer.

Term #11

Wort

The word wort may not sound appetizing but in the whiskey world, it is the sugary liquid that comes out in the distillation process before it is eventually fermented into the finished whiskey.

Term #12

Ethanol

Ethanol is another word for alcohol. It is created from the fermentation of flammable sugars.

whiskey glasses on table

Term #13

Pot Still

Pot still whiskey has a deep flavor profile that is punchy and rich to taste. The liquids are separated into the barrel during distillation to help enhance the deep flavors. The term pot still refers to the distilling apparatus in which the whiskey is separated.

Term #14

Cask Strength

Cask strength refers to high-proof, less diluted whiskey alcohol. You can add high-proof whiskey to other mixes or dilute it with water on your own to create the taste you prefer.

bottles and glasses of whiskey on bar countertop

Term #15

Column Still

A column still is used during the production of whiskey grains and is also typically used for bourbon and other whiskeys. This production method uses steam to create a spirit that is cleaner than pot-still whiskey.

Term #16

Expression

An expression is used to describe the varying types of brands, finishes, and family of related whiskey products.

person holding whiskey glass

Taste Whiskey With a Nice Meal

Whiskey enthusiasts can also appreciate a great meal. At Christner’s, we have a variety of whiskey flavor profiles to try and a menu to satisfy your hearty tastebuds. Check out our selection of custom bourbons, which you won’t be able to find anywhere else.

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