Look up the terms describing your favorite Spirit!
Absinthe – A greenish cordial made from wormwood and other herbs redistilled in alcohol. Illegal in most countries due to its wormwood content.
Aging – An essential mellowing process common to most alcoholic beverages. Spirits such as whiskey and brandy are aged in wooden barrels or tuns. The wood plays a vital part in the mellowing as well as in the coloring of the spirits. In the United States, Federal law specifies that domestic whiskey (except corn whiskey) must be aged in new charred oak barrels. Wines normally start their aging in wood, but unlike spirits, they continue to age and improve after bottling.
Alcohol (C2H5OH) – The common ingredient of all alcoholic beverages. Chemically there are many alcohols, but for beverage purposes, ethyl alcohol is the only one used. Even among ethyl alcohols there are different types. Grain, grape, fruit and cane spirits are members of the family.
Aldehyde – a colorless, volatile liquid found in alcohol.
American Whiskey – The term “American Whiskey” is not descriptive of any single type of whiskey. There are actually some 30 types of American Whiskies, but in the trade, the terms “straights,” “blends of straights,” and “spirit blends” broadly distinguish all types. In the United States the consumer perceives American Whiskies as “Rye and Bourbon.
Anisette – a cordial flavored with aniseed and distinguished by its licorice taste.
Apple Brandy – A relatively dry fruit brandy (Applejack) distilled from fermented (hard) cider. Often referred to as Applejack in the United States. Known as “Calvados” in France.
Aquavit (akvavit) – The Scandinavian name for an unsweetened, usually colorless spirit, with caraway seeds the main flavoring ingredient.
Armagnac – A grape brandy grown and shipped exclusively from the Armagnac district in the southwestern part of France, near the Pyrenees Mountains. Although it is known as one of the greatest brandies, the soil of the district, the production process, and the fact that most brands are unblended make it a brandy distinctive of Cognac.
Artificial Color – Mostly all alcoholic beverages have some color, either naturally or naturally acquired. With some liquors, the addition of small amounts of sherry, prune juice or caramel are used in blending, or to deepen (darken) the color of the product.
Barrel – A disputed term. Accepted as a container for beer, although ”keg” is preferred. Forced upon the United States whiskey trade by federal definition, new charred oak barrels for bourbon production. The wood of the barrel and its treatment contributes to the distinctive character of many great liquor types. These types would be Scotch, Bourbon, Tennessee Whiskey, Cognac and Brandy.
Barley Malt – Barley is a cereal grain. When moistened, sprouted and dried the resultant product is known as barley malt. It provides the enzymes that convert grain starch to sugar.
Bead – The small bubbles which form on the surface of some liquors after pouring: particularly noticeable, for example with higher strength / proof whiskies.
Beer – The word comes from the Latin, “bibere,” meaning to drink, and is the name for the fermented malt beverages. There are numerous types of beer commonly classed as Lager Beer, Ale, Bock Beer, Porter and Stout. See Pinkies Beer Terminology Sheet under “Beers”
Bitters – There are two types of bitters, both popular as an ingredient in various drinks. Aromatic bitters are liquor consisting of a spirits base flavored with aromatic plants, seeds, barks, etc. Flavored bitters such as orange bitters in which flavors derived from citrus fruits are used instead of herb flavorings.
Blending – The art of combining alcoholic beverages of the same type but of different character in order to achieve a distinctive taste.
Blending Agent – Such substances as prune juice, sherry wine, caramel, etc., when added in minute quantities to a blended spirits formula, are known as blending agents. All countries that produce alcoholic beverage products utilize them. There purpose is to add coloring and smoothness to the liquor.
Blended Whiskey – A balanced blending of straight whiskies and neutral spirits containing at least 20% straight whiskey and bottled at not less than 80 proof ( 40% alcohol by volume).
Body – Word used to describe a spirit or wine for fullness.
Bois Communs – Name for the vineyards officially rated in fifth class in the Cognac region. Product from this area are quick maturing brandies, primarily used in young low-priced blends.
Bois Ordinaires – Name for vineyard of lowest rating in Cognac area of France. Brandies from this area are used in low priced blends.
Bons Bois – Cognac vineyards rated right after the small Grand Champagne and Petite Champagne areas of Cognac. Brandies from here are soft and full-bodied. Widely used in good blends of Cognac.
Bonded Whisky – A straight whiskey, produced and bottled in accordance with the Federal Bottling in Bond Act. To be designated as a “bottled in bond” the product must be at least four years old and must be bottled at one hundred proof. It also has to be produced from a single distillery, by the same distiller and be the product of a single season and year; it must be bottled at an internal revenue bonded facility under U.S. government supervision.
Borderies – Cognac vineyards surrounding those called Bon Bois. Cognac produced here is of exceptional quality used in the finest blends.
Botanicals – A covering term applied to the numerous herbs, seeds, roots and berries used in the flavoring formula for gin and other flavored spirits. Examples: Juniper berries, Aniseed, Coriander seed, Casia Bark.
Bourbon Liqueur – A cordial with a bourbon whiskey flavor; at least 51% of the spirits content is bourbon whiskey.
Bourbon – See section under Whiskies in the spirits section of the Pinkie’s Website.
Brandy – See section under Brandies / Cognac in the spirits section of the Pinkie’s Website.
Broullis – Name given for the final distillation of brandies used to make Cognac.
Campbeltown – The name of one of the four great malt whiskies used in blends of Scotch whisky. The name is taken from a village situated on the Mull of Kintyre.
Canadian Whisky – See section under whiskies in the spirits section of the Pinkie’s Website.
Charcoal Filtering – mostly all aged whiskies is charcoal treated by being aged in charred barrels. Some distillers elect to increase the degree of charcoal processing. They put their whiskies through various forms of charcoal filters, either before or after aging. The process is also known as “leaching”. Vodka is charcoal filtered by law.
Cistern Room – A cistern is a large tank. A cistern room is a tank room where new whiskey is temporarily stored. Whiskey is also sometimes reduced in proof before putting into barrels for aging.
Cocktail – Dates back to colonial America and refer to any mixed drink.
Coffee Still – A continuous still (patent still). Named after an Irishman, Aeneas Coffee.
Cognac – See section under brandies / cognacs in the spirits section of the Pinkie’s Website.
Condenser – part of the still that captures alcoholic vapors. Cools and condenses them into a liquid. On the pot still the condenser is the coiled tubing (worm) on the top to the pot. See “continuous still “ for description of the condenser.
Congeners – natural flavor parts in spirits. Made up of trace oils, esters and acids carried through the distillation process. Spirits distilled at higher proofs are practically free of congeners, whereas low proofs have a high concentration.
Continuous Still – is virtually standard equipment of all distilleries. Also known as the “Coffee Still.” The continuous still appearance is that of a tall cylinder and usually rises through two or three stories of the distillery building. The inner works of the still is fitted with numerous horizontal, perforated baffle plates. The distillation process is accomplished by pumping the pre-heated liquid mash to the top of the still and permitting it to splash down through the baffle plates. At the same time, steam is entered at the bottom of the still and rises through the baffle plates. In constant contact with the mash, the steam distills and re-distills the liquids as it rises. The proof may be stepped up at each higher level between the plates. The vaporized alcohol finally passes off through the top of the still where it is cooled and condensed as new spirits. The spent liquids during the process drop to the bottom of the still and are drawn off to be converted into distiller’s grains.
Converter – Equipment in which grain mash, mixed with water and malt are cooked. Best example would be a giant pressure cooker. In this process the enzymes of the malt convert the grain starch to sugar.
Cordial – See section under Cordials in the Spirits Section of Pinkie’s Website.
Corn Whiskey – A distillate of grain mash, 80% of the mash being comprised of corn. Corn is the one American Whiskey that does not have to aged in new charred oak barrels. Predominately white in color, the product is usually aged in non-charred or reused barrels.
Crème – Designation for fruit and herb cordials with high sugar content.
Crème d’ Ananas – Pineapple
Crème de Cacao – Cocoa flavor, brown or white
Crème de Café – Coffee flavor
Crème de Cassis – Black currants
Crème de Fraise – Strawberries
Crème de Framboise – Raspberries
Crème de Menthe – Mint flavor, green or white
Crème de Noyaux – Fruit stones Crème de Noyeaux / Apricot nuts
Crème de Prunelle – Prunes
Crème de Vanilla – Vanilla
Crème de Violette – Violets
Curacao – An orange flavored cordial made from the peel of the orange. Native to the island of Curacao, related to Triple Sec.
Demerara Rum – Dark heavy bodied rum from Demerara County, British Guiana.
Distallate – Product of distillation.
Distilling – Separation of alcohol from a substance by vaporization and condensation. All distilled spirits are made from a liquid, fermented mash or other substance. The fermented mash or substance can be made from grapes, sugar cane, grain or any starch product (sugar beet, potato). Fermentation converts the sugar content to alcohol. Distillation separates the alcohol and congeners from the undesirable liquids and solids that make up a fermented substance. Note, that in distillation every liquid has a unique boiling point. Alcohol for instance boils and vaporizes at 173 degrees. Whereas water boils and vaporizes as steam at 212 degrees. When a fermented substance is heated to a temperature of 173 degrees it alcoholic content begins to boil and vaporize leaving most of the rest of the substance behind. Congeners are carried along with the vaporized alcohol in distilling. The congeners are what differentiate distillates of grain mash, sugar cane or grapes; whiskey, rum and brandy. Distillers have adopted controls to enhance or change styles of distilled products. The type of still, whether a continuous still or pot still; the amount of heat; the proportion of the run accepted or rejected as to the heads and tails along with the pre-determined proof of the distillate.
Dunder – The lees of cane juice used as an ingredient in the making of Jamaican rums.
Egg Nog – Liquid custard that is made up of eggs, cream and sugar combined with Brandy, Rum or Bourbon.
Enzymes – A naturally occurring, complex organic substance that has the property of causing changes to take place in other substances. The enzymes of malt, for example, change the natural starch content of grain to sugar.
Excise Tax – a tax levied by the United States government on distilled spirits, wines and malt beverages. The excise tax is a specific tax computed either on the basis of the alcoholic content of the taxed beverage or on a wine gallon basis.
Feints (pronounced “Faints”) – A name given to the last portion of spirits that runs from a still as the distillation of a batch nears completion. Feints are normally turned back into the still for redistillation. Feints are also, and more generally referred to as tails.
Fermentation – A natural reaction of yeast as it grows and multiplies in a batch of grain, sugar cane or fruit / vegetable mash is known as fermentation. In the process, the sugar content of the mash is converted to alcohol. In whiskey making two methods of fermentation are employed. Sour Mash: part of the previous day’s fermented batch of mash is added to each fresh batch of mash. Adds more yeast to the new mash, while at the same time provides continuity with each batch. This process takes longer. From 3 to 4 days; requires a larger plant; greater care; and the yield of whiskey per bushel of grain is lower. It is costlier, but is the primary standard procedure among straight whiskey distillers. Sweet Mash: fermentation is started with newly cultured yeast; usually process takes 2 to 3 days. This type of process is seldom utilized.
Filtering – Passing a liquid through cloth or a filtering agent such as charcoal in order to remove impurities and other undesirable contents. To give the liquid a sparkling clear appearance.
Fins Bois – One of the 7 sub-divisions of the Cognac region. 4th most important.
Flavored Brandy – A cordial type of spirits primarily of a brandy base (grape), fruit or other flavoring. Usually bottled at 70 proof.FORESHOTS the first run of spirits from a still. Usually turned back for redistillation. Commonly termed the “heads”.
Fruit Brandy – Usually a distillate of fruit juice. Higher proof, dry, and lacking the fruit flavoring of a fruit cordial.
Fruit Cordials – Sweetened liquor consisting of natural fruit flavors added to a base of neutral spirits (grain or cane neutral spirits) or brandy (grape spirits).
Fusel Oil – One of the congeners of whiskey and spirits. Undesirable in some forms. Believed to change or break up during the aging period and become and important and desirable constituent of aged whiskey.
Gin – An alcoholic beverage delicately flavored with juniper berries and other botanicals. Most gin is distilled from grain by continuous process. Still is fitted with a gin head, packed with the flavoring agents (juniper / botanicals), and through, which the alcohol vapors, pass as they rise from the still. Federal regulations forbid the artificial coloring of dry gin unless the nature of the coloring is stated on the label. Some gins straw yellow color is derived from aging in barrels, thus it is obtained naturally. The distillation of juniper berries with spirits originated in Holland. The product was called Genevre, a French word-meaning juniper. The English shortened the word to gin. Dutch gins today are heavy bodied, strongly flavored and go under the name of Geneva Gin, and also under the names of Holland’s and Schiedam gins. English gin accounts for most of the U.S. imports. Distilled London Dry Gin is the same as Distilled Dry Gin. The term “dry” simply means that they lack sweetness. There are sweet gins, usually flavored with orange, lemon or mint. They are definitely sweet.
Gin Head – A small tank that is connected to the still. The purpose of the head is to hold the flavoring agents of gin. Alcohol vapors that pass through the tank pick up the flavor of the juniper and botanicals before condensing.
Grain Mash – The cooked grains; corn, barley, rye, etc. The natural starch content of which it has been converted to sugar by the natural action of the enzymes in the barley malt. Grain fully prepared for fermentation is referred to as grain mash.
Grain Neutral Spirits – The federal definition says that “neutral spirits” are spirits distilled from any material at or above 190 proof.
Grand Champagne – The name given of one of the seven sub-divisions into which Cognac region of France is divided. Based on soil analysis of the region. The best / finest Cognac brandies are grown in the Grand Champagne.
Grappa Brandy – Distilled from the pulp and skins of grapes. Referred to as “Marc” in France. Also known to be termed “Pomace brandy”.
Grenadine – Sweet syrup flavored with pomegranate. Red in color and low proof. Also produced as a non-alcoholic product.
Heavy – Wines and liquors that have a pronounced body due to a high content of soluble solids.
Highland Malt – The name that distinguishes one of the four types of malt whisky made in Scotland and used as a base of every Scotch whisky. Distilled in the Highlands of Scotland.
Holland Gin – Often called Geneva Gin. It is made from the fermented mash of barley malt, and of juniper berries and other botanicals. The product is usually packaged in crocks at 80 proof (40% alcohol by volume). It is heavier than dry gin. Imported from Holland.
Irish Whiskey – A product that must be produced in Ireland if it is to be labeled Irish Whiskey. Two kinds of Irish whiskey. One is produced in Northern Ireland, the other in the Republic of Ireland. The northern whiskey contains a lend of malt whiskies, plus grain whiskey. The malt whiskies are distilled at about 171 proof from a mash of barley malt. The grain whiskey is distilled in continuous stills at over 180 proof.The Republic of Ireland variety is a blend of similarly produced whiskies, distilled at not more than 171 proof in pot stills from a mash consisting chiefly of malted barley, plus small cereal grains including unmalted barley, wheat, oats, and rye.
Islay Malt – Another one of the four types of malt whisky used in many Scotch whisky blends. Distilled on the island of Islay off the west coast of Scotland.
Jamaica Rum – Rum exports from Jamaica into the United States are confined to dark, golden mahogany, heavy-bodied rum. Made from a combination of molasses and skimmings, both of which are by-products of the island’s big sugar mills. The molasses is drawn into fermenting vat and dunder is added. Ingredients are permitted a long fermentation period from ten to fourteen days before the batch is ready for the still. Old type “pot stills” are commonly used. Jamaican rums are aged in oak puncheons, the blended and bottled.
Kummel – a colorless cordial flavored with caraway seed.
Limousin Oak – An oak grown in the forests of Limousin Province, France. Used in making the casks in which Cognac is aged.
Liqueur – commonly used as synonymous with cordial.
Liquor – Commonly taken to mean “Distilled Spirits.” The federal government however, refers to liquor as synonymous with alcoholic beverages. That is, distilled spirits, malt beverages and wines.
Lowland Malts – One of the four types of malt whisky made in Scotland and used as a base of Scotch whisky blends. Lowlands are usually lighter in style than Highland Malts.
Low Wines – In distilling with a “pot still” there is a requirement of two distillations. Spirits from the first distillation are termed low wines. With the utilization of a continuous column still the heads and tails are commonly termed the low wines.
Maceration – One of three methods used in the making of cordials. The fruit or other flavoring is placed directly into the spirits and allowed to steep until the entire flavor has been extracted. Process like brewing tea.
Malt – A grain, usually barley that has been germinated through the application of moisture and heat. Malting is an essential process in the making of whiskey. The enzymes in malt convert the grain starches into grain sugars known as maltose. To acquire malt, barley is moistened and allowed to sprout subsequently it is dried. In the United States the sprouted barley is dried in heated drums. Whereas in Scotland the sprouted barley is spread out on a screen and heated / dried by peat fires below the screen. The peat fires impart the smoky taste that is characteristic of Scotch whisky.
Maraschino – Acolorless cordial made from the Marasca cherry and its kernels.
Marc – Also called Pomace brandy and Grappa brandy when made from grapes.
Marrying – A trade term referring to the blending of whiskies or other spirits or flavoring agents. The marrying period can be hastened by constantly stirring the blend In the case of whiskies the marrying period may take many months while the blend rest quietly in barrels or tanks. During the marrying period the ingredients of the blend become homogeneous under the natural influences of density and solubility adjustment.
Martinique Rum – Dark heavy bodied rum produced on the island of Martinique.
Mash – A meal of grain steeped and stirred in water. A mash is fermented and then distilled.
Mead – One of the earliest forms of alcoholic beverage. Distilled from a combination of honey, water and yeast.
Muscat Brandy – A brandy distilled from the Muscat grape.
Neutral Brandy – Brandy distilled between 170 and 190 proof. Similar to neutral spirits. Used in the making of dessert wines.
Neutral Spirits – Distilled spirits distilled from any material at or above 190 proof. Neutral spirits lack and distinctive taste, color or odor. They are utilized for blending with straight whiskey, vodka, cordials / liqueurs, and the making of gin.
Nose – The bouquet or aroma of a wine or liquor.
Old Tom Gin – A sweet English gin.
Pasteurization – The process of heating liquids such as beer and wine in order to halt fermentation.
Peat – A mass of vegetable material, partially carbonized, and found in swampy or boggy areas. Used as fuel when pressed and dried. Peat is the traditional fuel used for drying the malted barley used in Scotch whisky production.
Percolation – A method for making cordials that is similar to percolating of coffee.In the production of cordials the percolator is a large tank. Spirits are put into the bottom of the tank and fruit is placed in a basket-like container at the top of the tank. In some cases the basket is suspended from the top of the tank in cloth bags. The spirits are then pumped from the bottom to be sprayed over the fruit to drip back to the bottom. The process is done over and over until the entire flavor has been extracted.
Petit Champagne – One of the 7 sub-divisions of the French Cognac district. Second only to the Grand Champagne sub-division.
Pomace Brandy – Made from the skins and pulp of fruit. Also called marc brandy. Grape pomace brandy is also called grappa brandy.
Pot Still – A large bulging pot, cone shaped at the top, with a coil or worm leading from the peak of the cone. The first primitive stills were doubtless a form of pot still, and up to the turn of the last century, the pot still continued as the symbol, as well as the major piece of equipment, of the distiller’s art. Scotch and Irish whiskies, as well as cognac, are primarily pot-stilled products today.
Proof – Used as a word in connection with distilled spirits. Defined as the amount of alcohol in the liquor. The proportion being one half the stated proof, example a 100 proof product contains 50% alcohol. The proof at which whiskey and other spirits are distilled determine its characteristics. The proof at which product is bottled determines its potency but bears little to the quality.
Proof Gallon – A proof gallon is a standard United States gallon of 231 cubic inches containing 50% ethyl alcohol by volume, 100 proof. A British Proof Gallon is an imperial gallon of 277.4 cubic inches containing 57.1% of ethyl alcohol by volume, 114.2 proof.
Puerto Rican Rums – A product of the island of Puerto Rico. They are the largest selling type of rum in the United States. Range in color from light straw (almost white) to deep amber. They are blends of rums distilled at both lower and higher proofs. These blends achieve both flavor and lightness. A process employing pure yeast strains ferments carefully selected molasses. Following distillation the product is stored in uncharred oak casks. After a period of time determined by the distiller the product is leached. Caramel is added to the product and blended with other rums and aged.
Puncheon – A large wooden cask holding about 160 gallons.
Rectification – The process by which distilled spirits are blended together, or otherwise processed, by the addition of spirits or flavoring or coloring material. For example, straight whiskies are rectified by blending them with neutral spirits; neutral spirits with the aid of flavoring essences and other materials are transformed into cordials / liqueurs, etc. The product is subject to rectification tax. Examples of rectified spirits are spirit blends and re-distilled spirits.
Rock & Rye – A product that must contain rock candy or sugar syrup, and may contain fruit, fruit juices or other flavoring materials. At least 51% of the spirits content must be rye whiskey. A sweet product.
Rum – Taken from the word “rumbullion,” meaning tumult. Rum is made from water, yeast and sugar. In the production of whiskey the sugar is obtained by converting grain starches of sugar, whereas with rum the sugar comes from the sugar cane. Federal law requires that all rum must be distilled from the fermented juice of sugar cane, sugar cane syrup, sugar cane molasses or other sugar cane products. It must be distilled at less than 190 proof and bottled at 80 proof or higher. New rum flavored products on the market today may be bottled at less than 80 proof. Rum is America’s oldest alcoholic beverage. Its history goes back to 1651. During the 18th century, the famous three-cornered rum trade was developed.Molasses from the West Indies was shipped to New England, and there made into rum. This was shipped to Africa and traded for slaves, who were brought to the West Indies to grow sugar cane. When the African slave trade was abolished in 1808, commerce declined.
Rye Whiskey – Straight rye whiskey is made from a mash consisting of at least 51% rye grain.
Schnapps – German and Dutch term for spirits.
Scotch – See section under Scotch in the spirits section of the Pinkie’s Website.
Single Malt – A whiskey of a single distillery in Scotland. Their principal use is in Scotch whisky blends.
Slivovitz – A plum brandy distilled in Europe and in the United States. In France is termed as “Quetsch.”
Sloe Gin – A reddish-purple cordial made from the sloe berries. Sloe Gin is not a variety of gin.
Sour Mash – A method of fermentation in which part of a previous batch of the mash is utilized along with fresh yeast.
Spanish Brandy – Produced in every wine district of Spain. These brandies are full-bodied and usually best after ten years of age. The top brandy is produced in the Andalusia district.
Spirits – A term used to describe alcoholic distillate of grain, sugar cane, fruit, etc.
Still – A device used for separating one liquid from another liquid or substance by vaporization. The continuous still or pots still are the types in common use.
Straight – Applied to alcoholic beverage, straight means unmixed with other liquors or substances, with the exception of distilled water. Straight whiskies are required by Federal law to be aged in new charred oak barrels for a minimum of 24 months.
Tequila – See section under TEQUILA in the spirits section of the Pinkie’s Website.
Triple Sec – A cordial made from orange peel. Similar to Orange or Blue Curacao.
U.S. Government Bonded Warehouse – A warehouse established under the laws and regulations of the Internal Revenue Service. Distilled spirits are stored in bond before payment of tax. Although the warehouse may be owned by an individual or firm, the operations as well as the warehouse itself are kept under the direct supervision of the Internal Revenue Service. The Internal Revenue Service holds the keys and keeps all records of entries and withdrawals of spirits.
Vodka – See section under VODKA in the spirits section of the Pinkie’s Website.
Whiskey – See section under BOURBON / WHISKEY in the spirits section of the Pinkie’s Website.
Worm – A coiled copper tube leading from the head of a still and kept cold by passing through a bath of cooling water. Vapors from the still are condensed in the worm.
Wort – A mash of malted grain in semi-liquid form, cooked and cooled. The wort is then ready for the fermenting vats.
Woody – A term used to describe a wine or liquor with an unpleasant taste that has aged to long in wooden casks.
Yeast – The agent for fermentation. It is a tiny growing plant that consumes sugar and converts it to alcohol and carbon dioxide. The action of the yeast continues until all of the sugars in the mash have been converted to alcohol. Distillers and brewers usually use cultured yeast, meaning that they grow their own yeast from a pedigreed strain.