So here I’ll cover a lot of the terms I use in my reviews for you guys and brief descriptions of what they mean.
%ABV: The percentage of alcohol in the drink.
Added Color: Depending on the spirit and nationality, a food coloring agent called E150a can be added to darken the spirit in order to give it a uniform appearance and appear older than it is. There is debate over if this effects flavor, but natural color is often found in more expensive bottlings.
Additives Used: Some spirits such as Canadian Whiskey, Rum, and Cognac are allowed to use additives to change or enhance the flavor. This is often found in lower end products that are young and naturally harsh.
Aged For: The amount of time the spirit spends in a cask. Once a spirit is bottled it no longer continues to age.
Angels Share: The amount of whiskey lost due to evaporation that takes place in the cask during the aging process.
Agricole: A french style of rum using cane sugar as opposed to molasses.
Armagnac: A type of French brandy grown in the Armagnac region, made from 4 types of grapes, using column stills, aged in oak barrels.
Barrel Proof: Most spirits come out of the barrel or distillation at a much higher proof than they are bottled at. They are mixed with distilled water to bring the ABV down to a certain point. Cask strength and barrel proof bottlings are bottled without additional water added to proof them down, and tend to be much more robust in flavor, but also carry more alcohol burn.
Blended: Is usually a blend of malt and grain whiskies from one or more distilleries.
Blended Malt: A blend of single malt whiskies, usually from different distilleries.
Bottled in Bond: A law passed in the 1800’s in the U.S. called the Bottled in Bond act made a set of standards for a spirit to be bonded: Must be produced in one season, to one distiller, be aged for at least 4 years in a government bonded warehouse and be 100 US proof.
Bourbon: A whiskey made in the U.S. of at least 51% corn, aged in new charred oak barrels, distilled at no more than 160 proof and but in barrels at 125 proof or below.
Brandy: A spirit made from the distillation of wine.
Canadian Whiskey: Must be mashed, distilled and aged at least 3 years in Canada in oak casks of less than 700 liters. May not be distilled above 90% ABV, may contain e150a for coloring and be comprised of flavoring as long as it less than 2.5% of the total volume. Must be a minimum of 80 proof.
Cask Finish: Whiskey that ages an additional period of time, generally in casks that previously held other spirits such as sherry wine, port wine, or rum, that impart flavors into the whiskey.
Cask Strength: See Barrel Proof.
Charcoal Filtering: Similar to Chill filtering, but using charcoal to screen impurities.
Chill Filtering: A method used to remove residue from a spirit, that removes a cloudy appearance that usually happens when ice is added to a drink, or at lower proofs. The whiskey is chilled and put through filtration to remove proteins and esters from the spirit. Many believe this also removes some of the flavor of the spirit in exchange for appearance.
Cognac: A type of French brandy grown in the Cognac region, distilled twice in copper pot still and aged for a minimum of 2 years in French oak.
Demerara: A style of rum from Guyana, and type of sugar from that region.
Dram: A glass of whiskey.
Distilled by: The actual distillery where the spirit is produced, this may be different from where it is aged.
Esters: Chemical compounds formed during fermentation, responsible for fruity flavors in spirits.
Finish: The lingering after taste and sensations after the spirit has been consumed.
First-fill Cask: A cask that has never been used to age whiskey before, and is “fresher” imparting greater effect of flavor into the whiskey.
Glencairn: A type of glass used for drinking whiskey, allows the aroma to more easily reach the nose enhancing flavor.
Hors d’Age: Of the ages, aged a minimum of 12 years.
Independent Bottling: Whiskey bottled by an organization other than the distillery. Generally independent bottlings have different flavor profiles than official releases.
Irish Whiskey: Must be produced and aged in Ireland, distilled at less than 94.8% ABV, and aged in oak casks not to exceed 700 liters for a minimum of three years. The only additives allowed are e150a and water. Must be a minimum of 80 proof.
Islay: An island and region in Scotch whisky making, renowned for their strong peated whiskies.
Japanese Whiskey: Similar to Scotch. There are no hard regulations on its production, and it can even be blended with whiskies from other countries and still be labeled as
Molasses: Thick black liquid leftover from the production of sugar from sugarcane.Japanese.
NAS: No age statement, this means the producer did not give the age of the spirits in their bottling. Depending on the spirit there are legal minimum age requirements.
Neat: Drinking the whiskey without ice, water, or any mixers.
New Oak: A barrel that has never been used before.
Nose: The scent or smell of the spirit in the glass.
Owned By: The parent company that owns the distillery, if none is listed the distillery is independently owned and operated.
Overproof: Rum bottled at higher than 50% ABV.
Peat/Peated: Whiskey that has had it’s grain smoked using peat. Peat is a type of moss that is burned to impart a smokey flavor to the grains.
Region: The location of the distillery.
Rye Whiskey: In the United States rye is a whiskey made from at least 51% rye. In Canada it can be made of even 100% corn and is generally a term for Canadian whiskey.
Rum: A spirit made from the distillation of sugarcane byproducts such as molasses, honey, or sugarcane juice, often aged in oak barrels and produced in the Caribbean and Latin America.
Scotch Whisky: Must be produced in Scotland and must be aged at least 3 years in oak casks not to exceed 700 liters. The only additives allowed are Water, and e150a for coloring.Must be a minimum of 80 proof.
Single Barrel: The bottling was taken from a single cask, not a blend of casks as with most spirits.
Single Grain: Is whiskey from a single distillery, made from grains other than barley, usually corn.
Single Malt: Is whiskey from a single distillery, made from 100% malted barley.
Single Pot Still: A style of Irish Whiskey distilled from malted and unmalted barley in a pot still (which is a type of still used in the production of spirits, generally imparting an oily texture).
Small Batch: There is no official definition of small batch, but it tends to mean a number of barrels blended to together in batches between 12 to 100 barrels.
Solera: An aging process in which new barrels are blended together with older stocks often in wine and rum making. The age statements on solera blends are the oldest component of the solera, not the youngest, often deceiving consumers.
Sour Mash: Using part of an older mash and combining it with the new one during the distillation process. This ensures a consistent flavor profile.
Straight Whiskey: To be labeled as Straight Whiskey in the U.S. a spirit must be aged for a minimum of at least 2 years not exceeding 62.5% ABV at the time of entering the barrel, the only changes allowed to the spirit are to blend barrels of the same spirit from within the same state, filtration, and dilution with water. No other additives are allowed and the spirit must be aged in charred new oak barrels.
Tannins: A set of chemicals occurring in oak aged spirits that produce a drying effect on the palate.
Taste, Feel, and Palate: How the spirit feels and tastes when in the mouth.
Tennessee Whiskey: Similar to bourbon, but produced in Tennessee, and filtered using maple charcoal using the Lincoln County Process.
Triple Distillation: Most whiskies are distilled twice. Others, often Irish whiskey, are distilled three times to make the whiskey smoother and easier to drink, but loosing flavor in the process.
Vintage: A spirit that was distilled from a single season, often labeled with the year of distillation.
VO: Very old, in brandy usually means aged a minimum of 4 years old.
VS: Very Special, in brandy meaning aged a minimum of 2 years.
VSOP: Very special old pale, in Cognac a minimum of 4 years old, in Armagnac 5
Wheat Whiskey: Whiskey made from at least 51% wheat.
Wheated/Wheater: Bourbon that uses wheat as an ingredient, often instead of rye. This produces a different, less spicy flavor profile.
Whiskey/Whisky: Are the same thing, just a matter of regional spelling.
XO: Extra old, previously meaning a minimum of 6 years old, but as of 2016 ten years.