Interesting things to know about whisky names
Although the names of Scotch whiskies sound Greek to us, they are actually Gaelic – a Celtic language spoken mainly in the Highlands and islands of western Scotland. Only about 58,000 people speak the language now, but it does have a very interesting connection with the Scottish whiskies we love to consume. So, today we explore the naming etiquettes behind some of the great drams.
About the Glens
If you have ever wondered why there are so many Glens in the name of Scotch whisky brands, the answer lies in Scottish Gaelic. Incidentally, the first written mention of Scotch whisky dates back to 1495, when whisky was called by its Gaelic names ‘Aqua Vitae’ or ‘Uisge Beatha’.
Uisge Beatha, which translates to ‘Water of Life’, is a reference to the river valley from where distillers sourced the water for their drams. And ‘Glen’ means ‘Valley’, hence the names – as Livet, Fiddich, and Deveron are all Scottish rivers. For example,
- The Glenlivet comes from the Gaelic Liobh Ait which means ‘smooth flowing one’
- Glenfiddich means ‘valley of the deer’, explaining the famous stag logo
Other brands such as Glenmorangie and Glen Garioch derive their names from the Morangie Forest and the rich barley meadows surrounding their respective distilleries.
Which whisky brands are prefixed with ‘the’?
The ‘the’ prefix is often used to denote the single malt status of the Scotch. The Glenlivet is the original Glen spirit, so it certainly deserves to be addressed as such. Other than that, title hungry whisky brands include, The Arran Malt, The Balvenie, The Famous Grouse and The Ileach.
However, some blended whiskies also claim the prefix, such as The Antiquary, The Hive and The Last Drop. Although, you will be hard pressed to find most of these premium whiskies in India and may have to travel all the way to the Highlands for a sip.
The mysteries of Isle of Jura
Jura is an island in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland, adjacent to Islay – the famous Highland for Scotch whiskies. Whiskies originating from Isle of Jura have mysterious names, such as Jura’s Elixir and Jura Diurach's Own. It’s partly because the waters of Jura are believed to have been blessed by St. Columba with mystical properties.
Names you might be pronouncing wrong
Well, we won’t blame you for pronouncing some of these tongue-twisting Gaelic names wrong. It’s natural and we are happy to help. Here are Scotch whisky names which are often pronounced wrong,
- Cola Ila is pronounced either pronounced Cool-Ay-La or Cull-eela
- Glenfiddich is pronounced Glen-Fid-Ik
- Laphroaig is pronounced La-Froya (yep, that’s baffling but right)
- And Islay, is pronounced Eye-La
The last one sounds like an expression of surprise by a Mumbaikar, doesn’t it? Well, perhaps because Islay Scotch tastes so surprisingly smooth.
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