LEXICON: from Gaelic to Guiness

The letter ‘G’ goes a long way in Scotland. That has to do with the fact that there
are dozens of different glens - as well as dozens of distilleries named after them.
There are even more brands starting with ‘Glen’ (mostly blends or vatted malts),
so I had to exclude most of those from this page; the amount of pixels is limited.
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The Gaelic language has Celtic origins and survives on the British Isles.
grain whisky was produced at the Moffat distillery until 1986.
The Gartbreck distillery on Islay is a project by French distillers Glann ar Mor.
The growth of a plant from a seed is called germination - including ‘sprouting’.
The Girvan grain whisky distillery is located in Ayrshire in the Lowlands.
Just like Edinburgh, Glasgow is located at the mouth of a ‘Firth’.
Some claims from the Glasgow Distillery Company seem a little dodgy...
Glass is both a material and the type of container used to drink whisky.
The right type of glassware is important for maximum enjoyment.

The Gaelic word 'glen' means 'narrow valley' - usually with a stream.
Glen Albyn was founded in 1844 by Inverness mayor James Sutherland.
The Glenallachie distillery was built in 1967 and 1968 in Banffshire.
The name ‘Glen Avon’ is used for bastard bottlings by Gordon & MacPhail.
Glen Breton is a brand from the Glenora distillery in Nova Scotia.
The distillery known as Glenburgie started production as Kilnflat in 1829.
Angus Dundee bought Glencadam back to life in 2003.
The Glencairn glass is a fairly recent brand and type of whisky glass.
The brand 'Glencoe' is used for a vatted malt from the owners of Ben Nevis.
Glencraig was the name of a 'Lomond' whisky distilled at Glenburgie.
The name Glen Deveron is used for the malt whisky distilled at MacDuff.
Glen Douglas is one of many brands produced at the Loch Lomond distillery.
The Glendronach distillery in Deveron was founded in 1826.
For a long time Glendullan was Diageo’s second largest distillery.
The Glen Elgin distillery in the Lossie region was built between 1898-1900.
The name Glenesk has been used for whisky from Hillside distillery.

Glenfarclas is one of the last 'family' distilleries in Speyside.
One of Scotland’s largest malt whisky brands is world famous Glenfiddich.
Glen Flagler malt whisky was produced at the Moffat grain distillery until 1985.
The Edradour distillery has been known as 'Glenforres' in the past.
The Glen Garioch distillery claims foundation in 1797 by Thomas Simpson.
Glenglassaugh is a 'coastal' distillery near the rivers Spey and Deveron.
The Glengoyne distillery is located between the Highlands and the Lowlands.
Glen Grant is a distillery located in Rothes in the Speyside region.
One could argue that Glengyle is a 'brand' from the Springbank distillery.
Glenisla was a peated whisky that was made at Glen Keith distillery.
Glen Keith distillery was built between 1957 and 1960 by Chivas Bros.
Thanks to its location, Glenkinchie is also known as 'The Edinburgh Malt'.
Glenlivet founder George Smith started out as an illegal distiller.
The Glenlochy distillery is named after the Lochy river near Ben Nevis.
The site of Glenlossie distillery is also home to Mannochmore distillery.

Fresh independent bottlers Golden Decanters are a novelty enterprise.
Few people know that this barley variety was created by gamma radiation.
The 700 litre 'gorda' cask is close to the maximum allowed size for whisky.
Gordon & MacPhail was founded in 1895 by James Gordon & John Mac Phail.
‘Cereals’ (like barley) are grain crops - just like ‘legumes’ (like beans).
Grain whisky can be made from any cereal grain, like maize, wheat or rye.
Barley enjoys a brief phase as ‘green malt’ between germination and drying.
The 'grist' produced by a grist mill is mostly starch, but coarser than flour.
The conglomerate Guiness & Co bought DCL in 1986. The deal was dodgy.

The distillery was founded in 1892. Glen Mhor was closed again in 1983.
Glenmorangie distillery pioneerded the practice of ‘finishing’ whisky.
Glen Moray distillery started out as a brewery, founded in 1828.
The Glen Nevis distillery in Campbeltown was founded by Duncan McCallum.
The Glen Ord distillery was founded in 1838 by Thomas Mackenzie.
The name ‘Glen Parker’ has been used for various bastard malts.
Very few single casks at Glenrothes get a chance to shine on their own.
Like other Campbeltown distilleries, Glen Scotia is mothballed frequently.
The capacity of Glen Spey distillery is smaller than most of its neighbours.
Glen Talloch is a brand of blended whisky - sold only in Holland I think.
The Glentauchers distillery was founded during the ‘Pattison whisky crisis’.
The brand name Glentromie was used for some poor ‘Speyside’ bottlings.
Glenturret in the Midlands claims to be Scotland's oldest whisky distillery.
The closed Glenugie distillery used to be known as Invernettie.
The Glenury Royal distillery (a.k.a. Glenury) was founded in 1825.


The miracle of germination is fascinating in itself, but we also can thank the phenomenon for malt whisky.
In the broadest possible sense, germination can refer to anything expanding into something greater from
a small germ. Relatively primitive people already figured out how to harness the power of germination to
make beer from grains thousands of years ago. Slightly more recently, slightly less primitive people invented
the art of distillation - and the rest is history. Germination depends on internal and external conditions.
The most important external factors include temperature and moisture - and sometimes light or darkness.


The modern word ‘glen’ is based on the old Scottish Gaelic word ‘gleann’. It refers to a relatively narrow
valley - usually found in the Highlands of Scotland. Most glens have a river or a brook running through it.
People and distilleries both need a steady supply of water, so many towns and distilleries in Scotland were
founded near such a glen. Dozens of towns and distilleries in Scotland are named after a nearby glen.

Glen Breton

The ‘Glen Breton’ whisky is made on Cape Breton Island in Canada by Glenora Distillers.
The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) took offence to the name Glen Breton, claiming that it suggested
that this Canadian whisky was Scotch. The SWA finally gave up in 2009 after several court cases.


There are many different grain crops which can be divided into two groups; ‘cereals’ (like barley, maize,
wheat, rye, oats and rice) and ‘legumes’ (like beans, peas, lentils, etc.). Biologically speaking, all grains
are the seeds of members of the grass family (Poaceae). Cereals contain large amounts of starch, which
makes them a great food source for humans and some cattle. The starch and sugars also make grain
a great candidate for fermentation and later distillation.

Green malt

We can thank the germination of barley for the existence of malt whisky. This is the start of a number of
(bio)chemical and industrial processes that will eventually lead to alcohol and ‘the water of life’: malt whisky.
Between the time that the barley starts to sprout and the time further germination is stopped by drying it,
the barley is called ‘green malt’ - a brief but important stage in the evolution from grain to alcohol.

Golden Decanters

One might think that the market was pretty much saturated with independent bottlers by 2016 when there
already were hundreds of companies and clubs bottling their own whisky. Apparently not. In that year the
independent bottler Golden Decanters started. Judging by their prices, they focus exclusively on idiots.


Because glass is a transparent material, it has been used for centuries to make drinks containers.
You can read a little bit more about those in the entry about glassware - but it should be noted that the
material plays at least one other role in the whisky world. All (legal) Scotch whisky in the world has passed
through a spirit safe at one point in its life. All the ones I’ve seen were made of glass and brass or copper.

Golden Promise

Some people have been spreading the rumour that Golden Promise
is a ‘traditional’ barley variety. It’s not - far from it, actually. This particular
barley variety was created using gamma rays and ‘mutation breeding’.

Golden Promise barley

Golden Promise barley is a semi-dwarf mutant of the cultivar ‘Maythorpe’.
One of its unique features is a large tolerance to salt, so it can be grown
in areas that are not suitable for most other crops. Within the industry
it is also known as ‘Simpson’s Golden Promise’ - and I’ve been told that
it is one of the most popular types of barley among distillers these days.

Grain whisky

One of my favourite film quotes is from The Usual Suspects (1995); “The greatest trick the Devil ever
pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist.”
  In discussions about grain whisky I like to paraphrase
that quote and tell people something like “The greatest trick the Scots ever pulled was convincing the
world that grain whisky is proper whisky.”  Nevertheless, I’ve dedicated a whole page to grain whisky on
MM - as well as one page for each of the remaining active grain whisky distilleries in Scotland.



The name ‘Guinness’ is best known for the Irish dry stout beer and the
famous book of world records. Both the Irish beer and the book were
products of the company Guinness plc which was founded in 1759.

Guiness merged with Grand Metropolitan in 1997 and they are
now part of the Diageo conglomerate. Just like a decade earlier,
aspects of this deal seem to have been not entirely above board.

In 1778 founder Arthur Guiness started to brew the dark ‘porter’
style beer, made from brown malt. Over time the name changed
to ‘stout porter’ and eventually people just ordered a ‘stout’ beer.
By 1868 the company had grown into one of the top 3 brewers
in Britain, selling 350,000 barrels of Guiness around the world.

Things went (mostly) swimmingly for more than a decade, but
in 1986 Guiness bought Distillers Company. As it turned out,
the management and at least one of their lawyers had engaged
in a massive fraud in order to artificially increase the stock price.


The Scottish city of Glasgow is the Western counterpart to Edinburgh - located some 60 kilometres to the
east. Both are located near the coast of a ‘Firth’ on the border between the Highlands and the Lowlands.
Each of the two cities has a rich history of whisky distillation in the 19th century, but that local tradition died
out in the 20th century. At the start of the third millennium, Glasgow seems bound for a revival though.


Glencairn glass

A straight tumbler is perfectly fine for blended whisky and other
relatively mundane drinks - especially if you want to add ice cubes.
Sophisticated drinks like single malt whisky require a different type
of glassware that allows you to appreciate the bouquet though... 

During my years as an active malt maniac we did several extensive
tests with different types of glasses and our main conclusion was
that it’s mostly a personal choice. Tom might favour a sherry copita
while Dick prefers a large cognac bowl. And Harry is a little clumsy,
so he chooses the sturdy Glencairn glass shown at the right.

Every novice in the whisky world that has a desire to sample more
whiskies should try to compare different types of whisky glasses as
soon as possible. And more experienced tasters could consider
obtaining some coloured glasses for proper ‘blind tasting’.

The chapter about tasting whisky in the Beginner’s Guide goes
into more detail on the proper whisky glassware and some
other ways to make the most of your whisky tasting sessions.

Do you know of a ‘G’ word, phrase or whisky brand I’ve missed?  Be a sport and let me know...
You can reach me through e-mail, Twitter or Facebook to help me make the Malt Madness site (a little) better.


The grist is an ingredient during one of the earliest stages of malt whisky production.
It’s basically the grain (always barley when we’re talking about malt Scotch whisky) after the chaff has
been removed. Some purists only use this term for the grain before it has been processed in the gristmill,
but it is often also used for the meal or flour that remains after the grinding.



There actually are several different Gaelic languages, including Scottish and Irish Gaelic.
They are all part of the group of Goidelic languages that were being spoken in Scotland, the Isle of Man
and Ireland. Scottish Gaelic was still spoken in most of mainland Scotland and the Hebrides at the start
of the 20th century, but the use of the language has been declining for decades now.

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