Terminology All Whisky Drinkers Should Know

Whether you’re new to the world of whisky or full-time whisky drinker, our guide to the essential whisky terms is the perfect way to brush up on your knowledge. Want to know the difference between single malt whisky and blended whisky? Or what cask strength means? If so, keep reading and impress your whisky drinker friends with your exceptional whisky related knowledge.

Must-Know Whisky Terms

Get to grips with these whisky terms and fool your friends into thinking you are a whisky expert.

Cask Strength

Cask strength, or ‘barrel proof’, refers to whisky that is bottled immediately from the barrel. This means that the whisky has not been diluted after being stored in a cask for maturation. Cask strength whisky is more flavourful because it has not had any water added to it. Not only is the taste richer but the ABV (alcohol by volume) usually ranges from 60-65% – making cask strength whisky extremely alcoholic.


In the world of whisky, expression refers to the different variations in a particular whisky recipe. The factors that can be changed include: the distillation process, the age or changes to ingredients. However, these changes should not stray too far from the original recipe.


Maturation is the process of aging whisky. By law, Scotch whisky should be left to mature for at least three years and one day in oak casks in Scotland. Single malt whisky is usually matured for 10 plus years.


Peat is a combination of partially decayed vegetation and is found in Scotland in natural areas called peatlands or bogs. Some types of Scotch whisky are made using peat as fuel for the fires to roast grains and make malt, this process lends a peaty flavour to the whisky. A peaty flavour is smoky and is most commonly a characteristic of whiskies made in the Islay region of Scotland.


Alcohol proof is a measure of the content of ethanol in alcohol. Proof is recognised as twice the alcohol content by volume, so for example a whisky with 50% alcohol is 100-proof whisky.

Types of Whisky

There are so many types of whisky available and it can be hard to distinguish one from the other. Discover our concise list so that you can easily recognise your malt from your grain.


Grain whisky is made from any kind of grain, including corn, rye or wheat.


This type of whisky is made from a fermented mash consisting of malted barley only, unlike grain whisky.


Blended whisky is exactly what you think it is – a blend of different types of whiskies. A blend can include anywhere from 15 to 50 types of single whiskies and the number of whiskies in a blend is decided by each individual company. Whilst some combinations of whisky work seamlessly to create a great blend, it is not always easy to get a winning mixture because each whisky has such distinct flavour profiles. Therefore, the different characteristics need to complement each other to create the perfect blend.

Single Malt

Single malt whisky is whisky made in a single distillery.


You guessed it – Scotch is whisky that is exclusive to Scotland. Scotch whisky cannot be replicated anywhere else because the unique qualities and flavour profiles of the whisky are a result of the inimitable landscape, climate and water of Scotland. Scotch whisky is created in one of five whisky regions across the country. The unique flavour profile of Scotch is dependent on which region the Scotch is made in. For example, we’ve already mentioned the smoky, peaty flavour of Scotch from the Islay islands, however, if you prefer to go easy on the peat and heavy on the fruit then Scotch from Speyside might be the one for you. Expect pear, apple, vanilla, honey and spice flavours in this type of whisky which is usually matured in sherry casks.

Whisky Serve Essentials

Refresh your knowledge on whisky terms for the next time you order a whisky at a bar.


A dram is a unit of volume associated with whisky. The measurement of a dram has altered overtime, however if you decide to order yourself a dram of whisky nowadays then you are likely to receive a standard shot size of either 25ml or 35ml.


Ordering your whisky, or any spirit, neat just means that you want your spirit as it comes – no mixers, no ice and no added flavours. This type of serve is a favourite amongst whisky drinkers who prefer not to dilute their whisky.

On the Rocks

This is just a fancy way of asking for your whisky over ice.

Whether you’re just getting to grips with these whisky terms or brushing up your knowledge, this guide is essential reading for new whisky drinkers and whisky drinker experts alike. Cheers!

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