What is whisky?

Whisky is the general name for a distillate that has aged at least three years and one day in oak barrels and contains at least 40% alcohol. The ‘Single Malt’ indication may only be used for whisky distilled in one distillery and with only one type of grain, more specifically 100% malted barley. Most preferably, the mash is distilled in copper pot stills. The shape of these pot stills and the double distillation determines the eventual taste and character of the distillate. The pure and clear spirit (distillate) that remains after this slow distilling process is then aged in wooden barrels for several years. Scotland has a rich whisky distilling tradition. Distilleries in other parts of the world have also specialised in distilling whisky. ‘Whisky’ is therefore not a protected designation of origin but can be distilled anywhere.

Glossary of terms

Angels' Share: The fragrant part of the distillate that evaporates from the wooden barrels during the aging process.

Mash: A traditional mash comprises malted barley and water. After fermenting this mash is distilled in copper pot stills.

Malt: Germinated and dried barley, the starch of which is converted into malt sugar.

Pot still: A copper vessel with a Lyne arm at the top which becomes a coil. The alcohol vapours are cooled in this coil and by condensation you end up with a clear fluid, the spirit (the distillate).