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Whisky Terms from A to Z
This stands for alcohol by volume and shows what percentage of the drink is alcohol. For example, adding more mixer to your whisky highball will reduce the ABV.
To achieve its iconic taste, whisky needs ageing. This means storing it in wooden barrels to remove the harshness of the alcohol while also adding complex flavours from the wood.
When whisky ages, a small amount of alcohol evaporates through the wood and into the atmosphere over the years. This was described as a sacrifice to the heavens, or the angels taking their share, to ensure the resulting whisky will be blessed with amazing flavours.
Balance describes the flavours of a whisky and how well they work together. Whiskies contain different flavour profiles such as floral, sweet and peaty, so the master blender’s role is to balance these flavours, ensuring no element is too dominant.
Whisky is stored in barrels made of oak, which add deep and vital flavours to the liquid.
Blended Scotch whiskies like Chivas Regal are made by combining two or more malt and grain whiskies, produced in different distilleries. These elements are skilfully blended together to create something greater than the sum of its parts.
Combining one liquid with another is known as blending. Single malt whisky is a single ingredient in this process, while blending involves expert knowledge about how to balance different whiskies in the right proportions. This adds complexity and brings out desirable characteristics from each element.
Body refers to how the whisky feels in the mouth. For example, whisky with a complex profile of flavours is described as ‘full-bodied’.
Bourbon is a specific type of American whisky (spelled ‘whiskey’ in the USA) where the grains used for distilling are made from at least 51% corn and the liquid is aged in new charred oak barrels. As Chivas Regal is made entirely in Scotland, it is a Scotch whisky.
Whisky is aged in casks made of oak, also known as barrels. The type of wood used plays an important role in the ultimate flavour profile of the whisky, imparting all kinds of aromas and tasting notes into the liquid as it matures.
Where a distiller transfers the aged whisky from one type of cask to another to impart new, beneficial properties to the spirit. For example, Chivas Extra 13 Rye Cask is selectively finished in American rye casks to deliver juicy orange and creamy chocolate flavour notes.
Add a dash of water or another mixer, such as soda water or lemon, to whisky to enhance or alter the rich mix of aromas. A dash is a small amount, around 10 drops of liquid.
Where the magic happens. Whisky is made in buildings known as distilleries, where the initial alcoholic substance is heated and cooled before it goes on to be matured into whisky. Strathisla is the oldest working distillery in the Scottish Highlands and the main distillery for Chivas Regal.
A Scottish term for a single measure of whisky. It’s not a specific amount and can range from a small splash to a hearty glug.
The flavour of the whisky after it has been swallowed, where the aromas remain in the mouth after drinking.
Whisky made using cereal grains along with a small amount of malted barley to kick things off. It has an accessible flavour profile and proves more flexible in cocktails. Chivas Regal is made with a combination of grain whisky and single malt, expertly blended to create a smooth and rich combination of flavours.
A timeless cocktail consisting of an alcoholic spirit and a mixer. The classic whisky highball is made with soda water but you can use juice and garnishes to make unique drinks such as the pineapple highball.
An hourglass-shaped measuring tool used by bartenders and expert cocktail-makers to dispense accurate measures of spirits.
The original whisky of Scotland, malt whisky is made using malted grains - usually barley - and distilled in copper pot stills.
The ageing process of whisky. To be called Scotch, whisky must be matured for a minimum of three years. Whisky won’t age in a glass bottle, as it only matures in oak barrels by absorbing desirable aromas from the cask.
Add a mixer to your whisky to complement the rich, complex flavours. Popular mixers include ginger ale, soda water, juice, cola and more - be bold and find out which flavours mix best with your preferred whisky.
Crushing fruit, sugar and herbs to release the flavours so they mix with alcohol is known as muddling. Fresh herbs like mint and basil are often muddled in cocktails to release the essential oils for maximum flavour and aroma.
Drinking whisky neat means having it without any mixer, extra flavours or ice. Sip slowly to truly appreciate the undiluted flavours.
The aroma and scent of the whisky. To ‘nose’ a whisky is to appreciate the liquid’s smell before drinking. Bring the whisky to your nose and inhale the aromas, picking out the flavours you can’t detect through sipping alone.
If whisky is peaty, it has a smoky aroma, caused by the peat fires used to dry malted barley. The strength of this flavour is caused by the length of exposure to peat smoke.
Drinking whisky on the rocks means a neat pour over cubes of ice. Alongside chilling the temperature a little, it can help tame a particularly spicy whisky, allowing for different flavours to be released. On the rocks can also be used to describe a cocktail that’s served over large cubes of ice, or one large block of ice.
If you want to level up your whisky cocktail game, you’ll need a good quality shaker. Find your favourite shaken cocktail recipes, add into a vessel and shake to produce a timeless drink. If you don’t have a cocktail shaker, a jam jar or protein shaker are ideal replacements .
A measure of whisky often served in a shot glass. This isn’t a universal measurement and ranges from 25-35ml across the UK.
Single malt whisky is produced and bottled by a single distillery using only malted barley, whereas blended whisky is a combination of multiple single malt or grain whiskies from different distilleries.
To make high-quality cocktails, you’ll need a strainer. This is a simple tool that separates unwanted substances such as fruit pulp and seeds from your drink.
A French word referring to how natural factors such as weather, soil and local conditions can affect the flavour of a drink. It’s commonly used for wine but terroir has an important impact on the flavour of whisky too.
An elegant small glass designed for whisky drinks. They can be used for neat whisky, on the rocks or classic cocktails like the timeless Old Fashioned.