key terms

angel’s share

The name given to the alcohol that evaporates from a cask as the whisky matures. In Scotland, this is approximately 2% of the contents of each cask each year, although this amount is higher in other countries that have warmer climates.


The name for casks used in the Bourbon industry in America.

blended whisky

Whisky made by blending any number of different single malt or grain whiskies from any number of different distilleries.

charmed circle

An area of Edinburgh naturally lying above a fault line, offering an excellent water source for local breweries. The quality of this water helped grow Edinburgh’s beer scene into a world leader, exporting ales across the globe.

Chill Filtered

A removal process of natural substances in whisky to avoid the spirit turning cloudy when cold or diluted with water. The whisky is chilled, the natural substances coagulate and are then removed by being passed through a series of meshes. Though, the process does remove oils and congeners, which contain flavour. (Here at Holyrood, we do not chill-filter our whisky.)


In Scotland it is legal for a caramel colouring (E150a) to be added to the spirit before bottling. This is purely for visual purposes and helps with consistency of colour when batching or vatting. (Here at Holyrood, we do not add any colourings.)


A device for re-condensing spirit after the process of distillation. Vapour arrives in the condenser through an internal pipe, with cold water surrounding the pipe on the outside. The vapour condenses into a liquid and is then collected in the spirit safe.


Compounds other than ethanol that occur naturally in alcohol as a result of fermentation and distillation. Or simply, aromas and flavours.


The process of heating and cooling an alcoholic liquid in an attempt to separate alcohol from water.


Leftover residue from the mashing process. The spent grain is compressed down into pellets and used as animal feed. (In Scotland, mostly cattle)


Colourless, volatile, flammable liquid caused by the natural fermentation of sugars.


The process of liquid turning into a vapour. This occurs in whisky during maturation, as the liquid escapes through the wooden staves, with an average of 1.5-2% lost per cask, per year in Scotland.


The process of turning sugar into alcohol. Yeast is added to a sugary liquid (wort), the temperature is reduced and the hungry yeast consumes the sugar, creating ethanol, carbon dioxide and congeners.

Filling strength

The alcoholic percentage of the new make when it is filled into the cask. (At Holyrood, this is 60%.)

Grain whisky

Any whisky made in part from grains other than malted barley. Such as maize, wheat, and rye.


Malted barley that has been ground into a fine powder, making the extraction of sugars during mashing easier.

Heads, hearts, tails

Heads: Spirits from the beginning of distillation containing a high percentage of low boiling point alcohols, undesirable compounds.

Hearts: The desirable middle alcohols from your run.

Tails: A distillate containing little alcohol at the end of the run.

heritage malts

Varieties of malted barley not commonly used in modern day distilling. These varieties fell out of favour over time as newer, higher yielding barleys became available. Heritage barleys are often found and used in brewing, especially for the brewing of traditional British styles of beer.

juniper berry

Piney smelling, small fleshy conifers from the juniper tree. Historically a medicinal product, used since the 14th century to flavour gin – along with other botanicals.

low wines

The name given to the product of the first run of the distillation. After 1st distillation at Holyrood, our low wines are about 25-27% abv.


The germinating and drying process of barley to access starches, which can then be turned into sugar during mashing.


The occupational name of someone who malts barley.


The process of mixing grain with water to create a sugary liquid (wort).

mash tun

The vessel where mashing takes place – inside there is a large rotating arm which helps mix the grain and water.


The process of leaving a spirit in a cask for a certain period (minimum 3 years for Scotch whisky) to extract flavour and colour.


The grinding of the malt into a fine grist, removing the husk of the kernels, prior to mashing.

neutral grain spirit

Highly concentrated ethanol that has been purified by repeat distillation. Can be made from a range of grains. At 95% abv, the spirit is considered neutral.

new make spirit

The name of the clear spirit created after the second distillation. (Other international  names are Moonshine and Eau de vie).


A dark brown material that is the remains of plants partly decayed in water. Often found in marshy, boggy areas, it is cut into cuboids, dried and burned, creating peat smoke, used traditionally to dry our barley during malting. The smoky flavour of the peat is imparted onto the grain-creating, peated malt.

plain malt

Malted barley dried using hot air. Unlike peat, no flavour is imparted onto the malt, and thus the grain maintains its natural flavour.

pot still

A device used to distil spirit, whereby heat is applied directly to the pot.

spirit safe

A windowed box where distilled spirit runs through. There are handles on the outside which the distiller turns to make their cuts. (see heads, hearts, tails).

spirit still

The second and usually final stage in the distilling process, whereby the low wines are distilled again increasing the overall ABV of the liquid.


A curved panel of wood (normally oak) used to make up a cask. On average a 200L cask is made up of 32 staves.


The name of the liquid post-fermentation. This liquid is fermented to 8-10% abv before being transferred into the wash still.


The name of the fermentation vessels used to ferment sugary wort into low alcohol wash.

wash still

The first stage of the distilling process, where the wash is distilled.


The name of the sugary liquid created by the mashing of grain and water.


A living, single-cell fungi used for the fermentation of sugar into alcohol.