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Whisky comes in many variations, as distilleries and regions influence the ingredients and aging process during production. Terms like “sour mash” or “Bottled-in-Bond” are ubiquitously used among experts, which makes it difficult for newbies to follow. To help you differentiate between the different varieties, Konvi has compiled a glossary of the most important terms that you should know about while you start your whisky investment journey.
the abbreviation stands for Alcohol By Volume and is a measure of the alcohol content and strength of the whisky. It is expressed in relative terms as a percentage.
During maturation, alcohol will evaporate from the cask. The Angels’ Share describes the precise lost amount which is on average between 0.5% and 1% of alcohol per year. The name comes from the evaporation process which leads the alcohol content to irretrievably rise to the sky.
This term refers to the artful mixing of different whiskys to create a new and cohesive whisky. However, while maybe misleading blending does not always result in so-called blended whisky, as every whisky that originates from more than one particular cask will inevitably be a blended whisky.
This term originates from the United States dating back to 1897 and the Bottled-in-bond Act. This legislation stipulates that whiskys that are designed in Bottled-in-Bond must be produced by the same distiller in the same distillery. Furthermore, it has to be produced in the same distilling season which can be fall or spring. It then has to be aged for at least four years in a federally bonded warehouse with the supervision of the federal government and reach a cut and bottled APV of exactly 50%.
As the name suggests, cask strength refers to the exact strength of a bottle of whisky after it has been extracted from a barrel. The whisky is hence not diluted and will result in obtaining the maximum pure flavor.
Before whisky is professionally matured it needs to be filled into a barrel or cask. Charring is the process of burning the interior of bourbon barrels for up to a minute in order to develop a charred layer on the inside. The intensity and length of the burning process determine the color, flavor, and aroma of the whisky.
The process of chill filtration involves cooling down the whisky to a sub-freezing temperature and proceeding with a filtration process that removes oils that would normally cause a whisky to turn cloudy. This results in the whisky staying clear, whether it is cold or warm. This could sometimes have the side effect of having a less intensive flavor and a thinner mouthfeel.
Other than pot stills, column stills are much taller and differ in the underlying structure. Wash is routed into the middle of the column, where it encounters steam and plates that separate it into fractions of varying alcoholic strengths. Opposite to pot stills that need to be emptied and reloaded between batches, column stills can run continuously which has given them the nickname of continuous stills. These still types are widely used to produce bourbon and rye, as well as gran whisky from the British Isles.
This type of pot is the most widely used version. It is basically a big pot on the base narrowing to a vertical neck made out of copper.
As with more or less every other standardized measurement unit, the United States uses its own measure to indicate the alcohol content. The proof of a whisky is twice the percentage of alcohol by volume measure that is most commonly used. For example, an 85-proof whisky is 42.5% alcohol. However, the word can also be used as a verb referring to the process of adding water to reduce the strength of a whisky.
Similar to a starter that is used for yogurt or sourdough, sour mash refers to a distilling technique that uses a small amount of an older fermentation to start the new one. It is widely used to ensure consistency from one batch to the next, and will not result in a more sour-tasting whisky.
Do you want to fully integrate yourself into the whisky community? Then toast with your friends with the phrase “Slainte Mhath” (Pronounced Slanj-a-va) the next time you go out for a drink. The Gaelic term literally means "good health", which is an ideal phrase when toasting a dram of your favorite!
Now that you have a new toast you can use when drinking with your friends, you can also use the Gaelic word for whisky, literally translating to 'Water of Life' when ordering a whisky. Make sure to pronounce the phrase as “ish-ka ba-ha”. However, this will not help you much as you will definitely look at some confused faces if you’re not being served by a Gaelic speaker.