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Your Questions About Scotch Whisky Names Answered

 
PUBLISHED IN whisky, scotch, jura, mortlach, arran
The names of Scotch Whisky brands can often feel Greek to us, but not to worry, they’re just Gaelic.
 
Which brands do you always need to prefix with ‘the’?
Title hungry Whisky names include The Famous Grouse, The Balvenie, The Arran Malt and The Ileach.

Meanwhile blends include The Antiquary, The Last Drop and The Hive. We have no idea why, but we’re assured they aren’t compensating.

Why are there so many Glens in the name of Scotch brands?
While it would be tempting to tell you that Glen is a Scottish prefix meaning cracking stuff, it actually translates to valley.

Glenmorangie - Photo: Flickr/strevsSeeing as the Gaelic, and original, name for Whisky is uisege beatha or water of life, it makes sense to name the nectar after its natural supply.

Hence, Fiddich, Livet and Deveron are all Scottish rivers and the inspiration for major Whisky brands.

However, rather rivers, Glenmorangie refers to the glen of tranquility which is the Morangie Forest and Glen Garioch derives its name from the rich barley growing meadows surrounding the distillery.

Which Whisky names am I likely to pronounce wrong?
Coal Ila is pronounced Cool-ay-la. Glenfiddich is pronounced Glen-fid-ik. Smirk away. Laphroaig is pronounced La-froyg and tounge-twisting Bruichladdich is Brook-lad-dee.

Finally, for extra brownie points, the prolific Whisky region Islay is pronounced Eye-la

Why do Isle of Jura Whiskies have such mysterious names?
Jura’s Elixir, Superstition and Prophecy Whiskies each have a tale as enigmatic as their titles.

An ancient gravestone near the distillery attests that one local man enjoyed 180 Christmases in his home.

Prophecy derives from a wise old seeress who the Campbell’s of Jura evicted in the early 1700’s. Incensed, she prophesised that the last Campbell to leave the island would be one-eyed and his belongings would be carried in a cart drawn by a lone white horse.

Of course this came true when, in 1938 Charles Campbell, blind in one eye from the Great War, led his white horse to the old pier for the last time. Jura revels in stories such as these, hence Prophecy Whisky was born.

Inspiration for Jura Elixir - Photo: JuraMeanwhile, Elixir bears its name because the waters of Jura are believed to possess mystical qualities thanks to a blessing by St Columba nearly 1,500 years ago. An ancient gravestone near the distillery attests that one local man enjoyed 180 Christmases in his home.

Can you tell by the name of a Whisky if it’s a single malt or a blend?
Not necessarily, but the chances are if it’s a single malt then the distillery will want to shout about it and make the suffix quickly clear. It will always say somewhere on the bottle whether a Whisky is single malt or blended, but there’s no hidden code you need to crack.

Photo: Flickr/evert-jan

Are there any wild cards?
Mortlach might seem like a bit of a wild card of a name, as the distillery is based in Dufftown, but Mortlach is actually the original name! James Duff, Earl of Fife, changed the town’s title in favour of his family...because apparently an Earldom wasn’t enough.

Now that you’re fluent in Gaelic, you probably deserve a Scotch.

By Greg

Greg

About the author: Greg is a brand strategy consultant, writer, speaker, host and judge specialising in premium spirits. His mission is to experience, share and inspire with everything great about Whisky, Whiskey, Gin, Beer and fine dining through his website, GreatDrams.com, writing, brand building and whisky tastings.

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