LEXICON: from Cadenhead's to Cultivar

Watching American flms of questionable quality has taught me there’s a ‘C-word’.
You won’t find that particular word here, because it is boorish and not on topic.
Instead, this page offers an overview of many other ‘C-words’
and phrases,
as long as they have something to do with whisky. However, progress on this
section will be slow for a while. Follow me on Twitter or Facebook for updates.


Cadenhead’s (est. 1842) is probably Scotland’s oldest independent bottler.
The Caledonian grain whisky distillery was founded near Edinburgh in 1855.
Cambus (a.k.a. Tullibody) distilled malt whisky before it was converted to grain.
The Cameronbridge distillery is Scotland’s oldest grain whisky distillery.
Campbeltown is a classic whisky region - and the largest town in the area.
Canadian whisky is a specific type of whisky from Canada.
The name of Caol Ila distillery is Gaelic for 'Sound of Islay', a nearby waterway.
The Caperdonich distillery was founded in the late 1800s as “Glen Grant #2”.
Usually caramel refers to burnt sugar, but it’s a colouring agent too.
Cardhu distillery was fairly obscure until Diageo turned it into a vatted malt.
The bottler Carn Mor is a 'breakaway' from the Scottish Liqueur Centre.
Carsebridge grain distillery was founded in 1799 or 1804 by one John Bald.
I guess ‘cask’ is the most generic term for wooden containers holding whisky.
The Cask 88 company from Russia seems involved in shady dealings.
So-called ‘cask strength’ (overproof) whiskies are not diluted before bottling.

The (unofficial) designation ‘craft distillery’ suggests small production volumes.
Cragganmore distillery in Speyside was chosen as one of the ‘Classic Malts’.
The name Craigduff was used for a Glen Keith ‘bastard malt’ by Signatory.
Craigellachie (‘rocky hill’) distillery mostly produces malt whisky for blends.
The brand ‘Craiglodge’ is one of many produced at Loch Lomond distillery.
Owner David Stirk worked for Cadenhead's before starting his own business.
Croftengea is another one of Loch Lomond’s many brand names.
Abbreviation for ‘cask strength’ - in reality not always the ACTUAL cask proof.
A ‘cultivar’ is a plant selcted and bred (primarily) for its desirable traits.
The way governments levy taxes on goods crossing international borders.

This French independent bottler was called ‘Celtique Connexion’ before.
A centilitre (cl) is one hundredth of a litre, measuring 10 cubic centimetres.
Cereals are cultivated grasses with edible grains like maize, rice and barley.
The ‘Spring’ barley variety “Chariot” was popular during the 1990s and 2000s.
New (and sometimes old) casks are ‘charred’ on the inside to aid maturation.
The ‘Chenin Blanc’ grape variety is grown primarily in the Loire valley.
Company ‘Venture Whisky’ started Chichibu distillery as recently as 2007.
Chieftain’s dropped the ‘Choice’ in their brand name a while ago.
Chill filtration is the cold (+/- 0 C) filtration of whisky before being bottled.
The chime is the round edge of a head of a cask, tightened by a chime hoop.
Chivas Brothers is a now a local ‘subsidiary’ of drinks giant Pernod Ricard.
The abbreviations ‘cl’ and ‘cL’ are short for centilitre - ten cubic centimetres.
Clan Denny isn’t a distillery or even an actual clan - it’s a Douglas Laing brand.
The Clydesdale 'sub-brand' is owned by independent bottler Blackadder.
The first stills at the new Clydeside distillery were installed in March 2017.
The (new) Clynelish distillery was built to replace the old one: Brora.

A Coffey still (a.k.a. patent still) is a contraption to draw alcohol from grains.
Coleburn was one of the distilleries born in the whisky boom of the late 1800s.
Several types of column stills were invented in the early 19th century.
Compass Box is technically a bottler, but actually more of a ‘boutique blender’.
The condenser (usually a ‘tube’ or ‘worm’) is used to cool the spirit.
Congeners are the ‘undesirable’ by-products of fermentation like methanol.
A conglomerate is a large cluster of companies with thousands of employees.
The Convalmore distillery has been closed in 1985, so bottlings are rare.
A distillery’s cooling water does not have to be as clean as ‘process water’.
A cooper is a craftsman who knows how to turn staves and wood into casks.
The workplace of one or more coopers is called a cooperage.
A copita is a type of tasting glass - originally designed for port and sherry.
A little bit of copper dissolves from each pot still with each distillation.
Traditional material to close whisky bottles - may deteriorate after a decade.
The Scottish Corniche barley variety was ‘invented’ in the early 1990s.
A corporation (on MM) is sized between a conglomerate and a company.


The word ‘cask’ is possibly the most generic term
to describe the wooden containers used to both
hold and mature whisky. In the past wooden casks
were used for shipping as well, but this happens
mostly in either bottles or tanker trucks these days.

Casks are made out of wooden staves and metal
hoops keeping them together. The casks used for
the maturation of wine and whisky are made almost
exclusively from oak - mostly White American Oak
(quercus alba) & European Oak (quercus robur).
Check out the page about ‘casks’ for more details
about this magical container, including: 

whisky casks in the warehouse

Casks are almost always made from oak - but different species of oak.
A whisky cask has usually contained another drink (bourbon, sherry, etc.) before.
The wood of smaller casks provides more interaction with the maturing whisky.
The place where a whisky is stored affects the rate of maturation.
An ‘almost mature’ whisky can be transferred to a wine cask to give it a twist.
Unbeknownst to many, malt whiskies are often ‘reracked’ into a different cask.

Casks are usually stored on their ‘sides’ inside warehouses - a few of them still at the distillery.
The round wooden top of a cask (when it’s placed upright) is called the ‘head’ while the metal bands that
keep together the staves are called hoops - chime hoops, quarter hoops and bilge hoops. In one of the
staves there’s a round hole so the cask can be filled and emptied. The bung is the little round peg that
goes into that hole - usually after a bung cloth was wrapped around it.

Canadian whisky

They make whisky in Canada as well - but until recently they’ve kept pretty quiet about it.
Canadian whisky has at least one thing going for it: unlike ‘American’ whiskey it is spelled properly.
I’ve only tried +/- two dozen expressions myself over the last decades, but if you want to learn a lot more
about Canadian whisky I suggest you buy the excellent book on the topic by Davin de Kergommeaux.


Scottish whisky makers often claim that the only ‘ingredients’ in their product are malted barley and water,
but there’s often a secret ingredient as well: caramel. The kind of caramel that’s used to colour whisky is
‘spirit caramel’ (E150a). It’s officially added as a colouring agent, but it actually affects the flavour as well.

Cask Strength

The phrase ‘cask strength’ suggests the ABV of a whisky at the moment a cask’s contents were bottled.
However, these days the indication is often used on the labels of ‘overproof’ whiskies with ABV’s over 50%.
For example, Laphroaig’s ‘cask strength’ 10yo C/S was bottled at precisely 55.7% for many years.
(Please note that cask strength grain whiskies often have a higher ABV than C/S malt whiskies.)

Centilitre (cl)

The centilitre was invented not long after the
litre, which emerged in France in 1799 as part
of the metric system - one of the more practical
fruits of the French revolution. In two centuries
it has replaced most local units and measures.

Marianne sans bra

For those of you bad at calculus: a centilitre is
somewhere between a sip and a gulp. For those
who prefer exact measures: a centilitre is equal
to 1/100th of a litre (or 10 cubic centimetres).

Even though the centilitre indication can be found
on (European) whisky labels and bar menus, the
measurements that are used more often in more
social situations are ‘drams’ and millilitres (ml).
A dram officially equals about 3.5 ml or 0.35 cl.
Personally, I feel that measure is a tad stingy...

Chill filtration

The process of chill-filtration or chill filtering is used to remove residue from whisky before bottling.
Like the name suggests, it involves cooling the whisky (usually to somewhere between +5 and -10 degrees
Celcius) and then filtering it through an adsorption filter. This process removes some fatty acids that might
give whiskies below 46% ABV a cloudy appearance when chilled or diluted. This supposedly doesn’t affect
the flavour of the whisky, but more and more malt whiskies are ‘un-chillfiltered’ these days.

Column still

The word ‘column still’ can refer to different types of stills, but two traits that they all share are the fact that
they are NOT pot stills and that they produce grain whisky instead of malt whisky. The word ‘patent still’ is
often used as a synonym, although this is technically not correct. The first column still was (most probably)
invented by Robert Stein and was basically a series of pot stills. Things took a turn for the worse when the
Irishman Aeneas Coffey invented his so-called Coffey Still. Its cheap whisky conquered the world though...


Coopers at work charring a cask (in the olden days)

The job of cooper isn’t the oldest profession in the world,
but it’s pretty old. Most new-fangled job titles in Holland are
in English, but the fact that we have our own word ‘kuiper’
for this job proves that it has been around for ages.

That makes sense, because wooden casks have been used
for centuries to store and ship many products. These days
they are used mostly for the storage and maturation of wines
and whiskies, but they also were the ‘shipping containers’
of their day - after the Roman amphora many years before.

Thousands of fresh casks were needed every day and the
production of those casks employed thousands of coopers,
working at hundreds of cooperages around the country.

The cooper assembles and disassembles the casks but he
also performs various treatments of the wood - like the light
toasting or heavy charring of the inside of ‘maturing’ casks.


The word ‘cork’ is used for bottle stoppers in general - and the material most of them are made of.
The material is harvested from the Quercus suber or ‘Cork Oak’ in Portugal and surrounding countries.
I’m all for using natural products, but the fact that many corks crumble after a decade is a problem.

Do you know of a ‘C’ 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.

Craft distillery

The phrase ‘craft distillery’ suggests a traditional approach to whisky distillation, but the designation
is actually a recent American invention. It’s more about the suggestions and associations the phrase
invokes than the way the distillery is actually being run.


A cereal is a type of grass with edible grains, for example maize, rice, barley, wheat, rye and oats.
Cereal grains are the most prolific food crop in the world, with around a billion metric tons of maize (corn),
rice and wheat being produced each year. The name is derived from ‘Ceres’, the Roman harvest godess.


Every still needs a condenser to turn the spirit vapours back into a liquid after the distillation process.
Condensers come in different forms, for example as external tubes (for example the Glenturret tubes)
or the worm condensers installed at the roof of the Oban distillery.


Not everybody realises that copper is an ingredient of malt whisky. During each distillation run, a little
copper from each still dissolves into the spirit. These quantities are minute (and it’s not bad for you), but
the average pot still usually wears out slowly over the course of two or three decades. 


Within whisky production, congeners are the ‘impurities’ like methanol, esters, aldehydes and acids.
Technically speaking, they are undesirable by-products of alcohol production, but when it comes to
malt whisky the condensers are what give a particular whisky its unique flavour profile.

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