LEXICON: From H2H to Huntly

Many Scotsmen suffer from genetic defects like ginger hair and a nasty speech
impediment that makes it difficult for them to pronounce the letter ‘H’. And that
is why there are many more whisky words starting with ‘G’ than with the letter ‘H’.
There still more than a dozen words, phrases and brands starting with H though,
so I’ve added (my take on) them here. Check out other sections of MM for more...


H2H is short for 'head to head' - pitting two whiskies against each other.
A hangover is an unfortunate consequence of drinking too much (bad) whisky.
The Harris distillery on the Isle of Harris (or Lewis) started distilling in 2015.
Founded in 1964, Hart Brothers is one of the oldest bottlers on the scene.
The Hazelburn whisky is made at Springbank distillery in Campbeltown.
The round piece at the top of a cask is called the 'head' of the cask.
A head-to-head tasting compares two whiskies, poured simultaniously.
The foreshots during distillation are also called ‘heads’ (i.e. not the tails).
An important part of life - that could be damaged with TOO MUCH whisky.
The heart of the run is the central part, inbetween the heads and tails.

Highland Park is one of only two distillery on the small island Orkney.
The Highlands are Scotland’s largest whisky region by far.
The brand 'High Spirits' was launched by Italian bottler Ferdinando Fiori.
The name ‘Hillside’ has been used for whiskies from Glenesk distillery.
A hogshead is a cask type - and a derogatory term for somebody’s pig face.
The metal bands that hold together the staves of a cask are called 'hoops'.
A hopalong H2H compares a ‘rolling’ combination of two different whiskies.
The concept 'house style' has pretty much lost its meaning in recent years.
Hunter Laing used to be part of independent bottler Douglas Laing.
The town of Huntly is home to 2 distilleries; Glendronach and Knockdhu.
... Huntly Distillery (a Duncan Taylor project) may become the third...

H2H / Head-to-Head Tasting

Head-to-head whisky tasting

Some people have their own whisky brand
and replace an empty bottle with the very same
favourite whisky without giving it much thought.

The very best way to train your nose and tongue
is through a ‘head-to-head’ whisky tasting. You
simply pour two different whiskies in two identical
pieces of glassware and take turns nosing and
sipping from each glass. You’ll be amazed!

Make sure to take your time - at least half an hour for each whisky.
That enables you to compare the development over time as the whisky reacts with the oxygen in the air.
Advanced whisky lovers sometimes use blue whisky glasses for real ‘blind tastings’ where the colour of
a whisky is masked (to prevent subliminal influences). But pedantic wankers use those very same glasses,
and it can be difficult to tell the difference from a distance. (Inconspicuously observing the drinkers from
a safe distance often reveals the true nature of the drinkers within a few minutes.)

That’s fine - but once you start to suffer from
“malt madness” you want to expand your horizons
and learn about the differences between malt
whiskies from different distilleries, vintages, etc.


The consumption of a sensible amount of whisky can improve one’s mood and sense of well-being.
However, depending on factors like one’s body mass and physical condition, there is a certain ‘optimum’.
For most people the Law of Diminishing Returns kicks in after just 2 or 3 drams - drinking more over the
course of an evening is inadvisable (especially for women and children). The best way to avoid a hangover
the next morning is abstinence, but a decent meal beforehand and drinking enough water will help as well.


The ‘heads’ or foreshots of a distillation run are the first few litres of spirit running from the pot still.
Just like the last bit of the run, this spirit contains understandable elements like methanol - so it is usually
re-distilled later. I’ve sampled a few sips (for science!) and can confirm that stuff should not be consumed.


Publilius Syrus wrote “Good health and good sense are two of life's greatest blessings.”.
Those were wise words - especially considering the relatively primitive times that Publilius had to live in...
Most ‘research’ that suggests that small quantities of alcohol are beneficial to your health is bogus (often
sponsored by the beverage & spirits industry), but adults can freely decide to trade some of their projected
life expectancy in the future for some fun right now. (Also: Publilius had never tried single malt whisky...)

Heart of the Run

The “heart of the run” refers to the part of one single batch of freshly distilled spirit that will grow up
to be proper whisky after resting inside a cask for at least three years. The first part of the run (the heads
or forehots) and the last part (the tails, feints or aftershots) contain impurities with undesirable traits.
So, those heads and tails are redirected to be re-distilled again later.


Hopalong H2H

Hopalong a.k.a. leapfrog tasting

A ‘hopalong head-to-head’ or ‘leapfrog H2H’ is a
format for a tasting session that allows you to compare
a whisky to several other whiskies, granting you some
different perspectives on all entries in the flights.

It’s basically a variation of a head-to-head tasting
that starts with comparing ‘Whisky A’ to ‘Whisky B’ for
at least half an hour. Next, you clean your (identical)
glasses before filling them with Whisky B & Whisky C.
Then you proceed with #C versus #D, and so on...

The main advantage of this time-consuming approach
is that you get to compare every whisky to two others...

House Style

The late whisky writer Michael Jackson introduced the idea of malt whisky ‘house styles’ around 1990.
He suggested that every distillery in Scotland had its own house style. For example, the 1993 edition of
his ‘Malt Whisky Companion’ described the house style for (The) Balvenie as “The most honeyish of malts,
with a distinctively orangey note. Luxurious. After dinner”.
Anybody that has ever done a head-to-head
session of two different expressions of Balvenie after the mid 1990s will realise that this is nonsense...

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