LEXICON: From Quadruple Distillation to Quercus

As letters go, ‘Q’ is a tough one. It’s a good thing that the old Romans used the
word ‘quercus’ for oak, otherwise I would have had a hard time filling this page.
The Latin word quattŭor (later quatro or quattro in Italian, meaning four/fourth)
was the basis for most of the other ‘Q’ words on this page - except for “quaich”.
IThis Lexicon isn’t finished yet, so check out he other sections of MM as well.


QPR is short for Quality/Price Ratio - a subjective but useful measure.
Quadruple distillation means distilling a spirit four times. It’s overkill...
A quaich is a traditional Scottish drinking cup. Glasses are less shallow.
In France, a quarteau is a cask of 55 litres - equal to a quarter barrique.
Meanwhile, a quarter cask in the UK (half a hogshead) contains 125 litres.
Quercus (oak) is a genus in the beech family. Virtually all casks are oak.
Quercus alba is the white oak tree, native to North America.
Quercus mongolica or Mizunara oak is the wood used mostly in Japan.
Quercus petraea is the sessile oak species, found mostly in Europe.
Quercus robur or English oak is a tree native to Western Europe.
Quercus suber is the cork oak tree from Southern Europe and Africa.

Quadruple distillation

Quadruple distilled Bruichladdich

Most Scotch malt whisky is the result of double distillation while there
are a few distilleries that distil their whisky 3 (or two-and-a-half) times.
Meanwhile, quadruple distillation (distilling a spirit FOUR times) is
very rare in the whisky world - and there’s a fairly good reason for that.

Every time a liquid is distilled, the ABV (alcohol percentage) goes up.
After distillation in the wash still and the spirit still, most Scotch malt
whiskies have already reached a strength of 65-75%. By that point
the spirit still has enough character to leave a distinct impact on the
flavour profile of the whisky after maturation in oak casks.

Distilling whisky three or four times increases the alcohol percentage
further - but that leaves less room for the chemical compounds that
give a malt whisky its own unique style. Those quadruple distilled malt
whiskies may provide a bigger burn, but far less ‘nose’ and flavour too.
I’d personally prefer the 80% version of Stroh Rhum from Austria...

If you are into high proofs, you might want to give grain whisky a chance sometime...

Quercus Alba

The oak species Quercus alba is also known as American white oak. The English name probably refers
to the light colour of the bark of some species, even though most specimens have a bark with a darker
colour. The colour of the processed wood is also quite light. American Oak trees grow much faster than
most European Oak species and can live for hundreds of years. Bourbon casks are made from Q. alba.

Quercus Robur

The Quercus robur species is known under a large number of alternative names, including European
oak, pedunculate oak and English oak. The species is native to mainland Europe, except Spain.
The wood is very tough and in great demand for the production of furniture - and casks of course.


The quaich is the traditional Celtic drinking cup. These days it’s mostly used for (dark) rituals because
drinking from a glass or cup is easier and not as messy. This is also why most of the Scotsmen (and some
of the women) wore beards in the past. They allowed you to savour spilled soup and whisky later on.

QPR / Quality Price Ratio

The QPR or Quality / Price Ratio of a whisky (as well as many other things in life) is subjective.
Quality is in the eye of the beholder and 50 Euro’s can be ‘playing around money’ for some while others
can buy a week’s worth of food for that amount. But adding numbers to feelings can at least be helpful
for comparing your own past experiences fairly objectively - and slowly improve your shopping behavior.


Even those with a basic understanding of French will grasp that a ‘Quarteau’ is a quarter of something.
But a quarter of what?  In the realm of wine and whisky, a quarteau is a French wine cask of 55 litres, which
is a quarter of a ‘barrique’. Please note that a quarteau is only half the size of a ‘quarter cask’ in the UK.
Because of the wood-volume ratio whisky matures rapidly in this cask - but it quickly grows ‘winey’ too.



European oak tree

The word ‘Quecus’ is Latin for oak. It’s the scientific
name of a genus in the beech family ‘Fagaceace’ and
contains several hundreds of different species.

As far as ‘quercus’ is concerned: the word ‘cork’ was
also based on this Latin root. The material for corks is
harvested from Quercus suber - ‘Cork Oaks’ in Portugal.

Almost all Scotch whisky was matured inside oak casks.
Virtually all casks were made out of the wood from two
oak species; quercus alba (American ‘white’ oak) or
quercus robur (European ‘red’ oak).

Very few lumberjacks or coopers have a strong scientific
background. As a result, the names used for wood in the
lumber trade do not always have a clear relation to the
various biological species of oak trees. This can be
confusing and even lead to misunderstandings.

Quarter Cask

The size of a ‘Quarter Cask’ traditionally varied between countries, but within the Imperial System of the
British Empire it was something like 120-125 litres. Confusingly enough, a quarter cask in the USA is much
smaller. With a volume of roughly 50 litre, it’s even smaller than the quarteau from France.

Quercus Mongolica

The Quercus mongolica species is native to East-Asia, including Mongolia, Manchuria, China, Korea
and Japan. Some casks which are described as ‘Japanese oak’ were made out of Quercus mongolica,
but this name can refer to other Asian tree species as well. Lumber from North-East Asia rarely make it to
Europe or the US these days, so the whisky matured in Japanese oak is usually... Japanese whisky.

Quercus Petrea

The oak species Quercus petrea is also known as sessile oak or Cornish oak.
This species as oak is very similar to Quercus robur (see below), but to the best of my knowledge the
lumber is not used to produce casks for the maturation of whisky - at least not recently. It is extensively
used for the production of furniture and buildings though. It’s also great fire wood...

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