Whisky Buzzwords Explained


1. Scotch

Also known as malt whisky or grain whisky, Scotch is the same as whiskey, but it’s made in Scotland. To legally be called Scotch, it must be distilled and matured entirely in Scotland, and be reserved in oak barrels for at least three years!  Scotch is made mostly from malted barley, but there are 5 main categories of Scotch whisky, ranging from single and blended malt to grain Scotch whisky. For you to remember, all Scotch is whisky, but not all whisky is Scotch.

2. Gold Watch, Pocket Watch and Pimple and Blotch

All are good old East End London cockney rhyming slang for Scotch so you can ask your mates, “Do you fancy a Gold Watch before you go?” or whether they enjoy a good pimple.

3. Neat

When a drink is served “neat” – it refers to a single, unmixed liquor poured straight from the bottle to the glass. The liquor is unchilled and without any water, ice or other mixer, in its purest form for you to savour in all it’s glory. Typically, neat drinks are served in a rocks glass, shot glass, snifter, or copita. Two ways to order a neat whisky is to use the term “whiskey neat” or “spirit on spirit.”

4. On the Rocks

This refers to when the whiskey is poured over ice cubes. This is a controversial topic as purists say that ice should never be added to whiskey as it reduces temperature thereby inhibiting flavour and aroma, we say do what makes you happy! Typically “rocks drinks” are served in a rocks glass, highball glass or Collins glass.

5. Water Back

Your whiskey will be served with a small side glass of water. In Ireland and Scotland a small drop of water is added to the whiskey to open up the scent and flavour. The rest of the water is then drunk as a chaser when the whiskey is finished. They know a thing or two about whiskey so following their lead could be wise!

6. Whisky Cocktails

The Old Fashioned has been around since the 1800’s and contains the Holy Trinity of spirit, sugar and bitters. It is a simple drink with a complexity of flavours; and is strong yet civilised. The Rob Roy is a blend of Scotch, vermouth and bitters. It used to be tradition that a new musical was baptized with its own drink hence the birth of this classic drink in 1894. It’s safe to say that the cocktail had better legs than the music. The Mint Julep is the traditional drink of the Kentucky Derby, containing whiskey, sugar, mint and crushed ice. Slow sipping is recommended, especially on a hot day!

7. Age

For the classic malts this refers to the number of years that the whiskey has been maturing in the cask. There are mixed opinions as to the importance of age but be aware; it is only the time spent in the cask that matters as the whiskey derives 60% of its flavour from the wood. Once whisky is bottled the aging process stops as the glass doesn’t influence the taste in any way.

8. Finger

Finger is an informal measurement, usually about an ounce. Put your finger horizontally to the side of the glass and pour until the liquor reaches the height of your finger. Pretend you’re a cowboy and ask the barkeep for two fingers of whiskey then survey the bar (saloon) for potential trouble or gunfights as you enjoy your drink.

9. Nosing Glass

Nosing Glass is a tulip-shaped glass used to taste whiskey. It has a narrow opening so that when the liquid is swirled the aroma is concentrated in the nostrils. If you want to taste whiskey the right way, you might want to invest in one of these!


Source: GQ