LEXICON: From Macallan to Murray McDavid

With the letter ‘M’ we’ve reached the middle of the alphabet - and until now we’ve
already covered two thirds of the entries in this 1st edition of the Whisky Lexicon.
If you’ve been working your way through this whisky directory alphabetically,
now might be a good moment to take a break and have a dram to help you to
absorb all that fresh knowledge. Follow me on Twitter or Facebook for updates.


Macallan was founded in 1824 and is now one of the big whisky brands.
The malt whisky from the MacDuff distillery is called 'Deveron' these days.
MacKillop's Choice is one of the whisky brands of Angus Dundee.
... while I’ve also seen the ‘MacKullick's Choice’ off-brand (?) in France.
Usually, 'malt' is short for malted barley - the key ingredient of malt whisky.
The phrase 'malt maniac' applies to anybody that's crazy about malts.
The ‘Malt Maniacs’ whisky community started to evolve around 1997.
A malt mileage describes the number of different malts one has sampled.
The brand ‘Malt Trust’ has been used by a small bottler from the USA.
Malt whisky is a type of whisky, produced in and outside of Scotland.
The man behind German bottler Maltbarn is Martin Diekmann.
The first stage of malt whisky production uses malted barley and water.
Malting is the soaking of barley in water so that it germinates within days.
Most distilleries had their own malting floor ‘back in the day’.
The word ‘maltings’ is used to describe a single malting facility.
German bottler ‘Malts of Scotland’ has produced quite a few bottles.

Mannochmore produced the universally hated Loch Dhu malt whisky.
The Margadale River on Islay is the water source for Bunnahabhain.
A ‘marrying cask’ is sometimes used to blend or vat whiskies together.
The 'mash' contains lots of starch which is being converted into sugars.
Before mechanisation, the mash in a mash tun was stirred manually.
Mashout involves raising the temperature of the mash to stop conversion.
The ‘master blender’ used to compose all blends for a whisky producer. 
Master of Malt is the trade name for the bottler 'Atom Supplies Ltd.'.
Did you know anybody can call himself master and give a masterclass?
McGibbon's Provenance was a brand of bottler Douglas Laing.
The fermented drink mead (made from honey) was a predecessor of beer.
Methyl alcohol or methanol (CH3OH) should NOT be consumed.
Most of humanity has now embraced the metric system and its logic.
The Midlands area is located in the south of the Highlands region.
The Scottish county Midlothian used to include Edinburgh in the past.
A millilitre is 1/1000 of a litre and (+/-) equal to one cubic centimetre.
The Millburn distillery in Inverness was dismantled in 1988.
The bottler Milroy's of Soho should not be confused with ‘John Milroy’.
Miltonduff distillery was foundedin 1824 by R. Bain and A. Peary.
The abbreviation ‘ml’ is used for millilitre - a thousandth of a litre.

The company Mot Hennessy became part of the LVMH conglomerate.
The Moffat grain whisky complex has been home to many ‘malt’ whiskies.
The brand Montgomerie's is owned by the company Angus Dundee.
Montrose was an alternative name for the Lochside distillery.
Moon Import is a famous Italian whisky bottler with a long history.
The Mortlach distillery was the very first to be built in Dufftown.
Plans for a Mossburn Distillery in the Borders were approved in 2017.
The Mosstowie malt whisky came from Lomond Stills at Miltonduff.
Mothballing a distillery means production stops, but it may be resumed.
The 'mouth feel' of a whisky is what you'd imagine: the way it feels.
Bottler Murray McDavid built a strong reputation since the early 1990s.

Malt / malted barley

Malt is short for malted barley

Malt is short for malted barley. After germination
the barley is dried - often over a smoky fire to add
some phenolic traits to the malt. Depending on the
desired characteristics of the whisky, the treatment
goes for ‘lightly smoky’ to ‘heavily peated’.

The smoke is often generated by a peat fire, but
wood and other materials are sometimes used too.
The phenolic characteristics of the malt are often
measured in PPM - parts per million. Malted barley
that is used for very lightly peated whisky only has
a few PPM of phenols, while ‘heavy’ goes up to 150.

As far as I’m concerned, the only real ‘traditional’
Scotch whisky is malt whisky from proper pot stills.
Meanwhile, grain whisky can be made from any
kind of grain - in huge industrial column stills.

Malt Maniac / malt maniac

The description ‘malt maniac’ can apply to anybody who is a little more crazy about malt whisky than what
most sensible people would consider sensible. Which is ironic, because it’s precisely their SENSES that
draw most patients on the path towards malt mania. The designation (certified) Malt Maniac used to be
reserved for members of the Malt Maniacs collective that emerged around this site in the late 1990s.
Reconstruction of this site leaves me little time to look after the Malt Maniacs Archives unfortunately...


The process of ‘malting’ involves the soaking of barley in water to start the germination process.
The temperature and moisture of the mixture is tightly controlled while enzymes are given a few days to
turn most of the starch in the grain into sugars. In the olden days every distillery had its own maltings but
these days most barley is malted in a few large specialised facilities.

Marrying cask

Many large ‘vattings’ of several casks of whisky are produced in a large ‘vat’ made out of metal or wood.
If only (part of) the contents of a few small casks are used, a relatively small ‘marrying cask’ is often used.
This cask was often used to mature whisky in the past, so it often contributes some of its character.

Malt mileage

When I was a member of the aforementioned ‘Malt Maniacs’, the amount of respect a member could
demand was partly determined by one’s ‘milt mileage’ - the number of ‘different’ expressions sampled.

Maltings / Malting Floor

Maltings involved a lot of manual labour

A ‘maltings’ is a facility for ‘malting’ barley.
This used to be a labour-intensive process,
because the grain had to be turned regularly
to keep the moisture and temperature at the
correct levels.

The fact that the malting required a lot of
manual labour (just like the drying later),
a distillery needed quite a few local workers.
Especially in rural areas, distilleries offered
employment to significant numbers of people.

During the second half of the 20th century
large parts of the process were mechanised,
so fewer people found employment in whisky.

These days, only a few distilleries still have their own malting floor or maltings. Most malted barley is
now produced in a few large central maltings facilities - like the old Port Ellen distillery on Islay.


Methanol molecule (extreme close-up)

Methyl alcohol - a.k.a. methanol or ‘wood alcohol’ - officially has the
chemical formula CH3OH, but it’s often abbreviated as MeOH. Methanol
is the simplest form of alcohol and should NOT be consumed in large
quantities because - unlike ethanol - it is highly toxic.

Whenever you hear stories about Poles or other Eastern Europeans
going blind or even dying of drinking too much alcohol, the cause
is usually a faulty distillation process (of for example vodka)
which produced too little ethanol and too much methanol.

Even in civilised countries we are not 100% safe, because
brown spirits also contain trace amounts of methanol. However,
you’d have to drink more than 50 litres to reach lethal levels...

Millilitre / ml

A millilitre is a 1000th of a litre in the metric system. Drinking from a measuring cup is no fun and would
simply look weird, but if you would want to drink a millilitre of whisky, aim somewhere between sip and gulp.


After the malted barley is ground into grist, hot water is added in the mash tun. In order to extract the
most sugar from the grain, the mash is stirred continuously. In the past, this was a labour-intensive process.

Mash Tun

In the distant past, the mash tun was often made out of wood - just like a wash back. However, the hot
water and constant stirring caused a lot of wear and tear. Mash tuns needed to be replaced frequently, so
these days most mash tuns are made out of metal. The turning of the mash is a mechanical process these
days, significantly reducing the required workforce. The mash tun has a perforated floor to draw off liquid.

Master Blender

A master blender doesn’t just deal with blended whisky (a mixture of malt whisky and grain whisky).
Master blenders also try to combine several casks of malt whisky into a vatting with a specific profile.


The alcoholic beverage mead is produced by fermenting honey - as opposed to the grain that is used to
make beer. In the past it used to be more popular than beer, but producing large quantities is a problem.


When a distillery is ‘mothballed’ it is closed, but not yet demolished. This leaves the possibility that the
facility will be revived again at a later moment when the economy improves or a buyer for the distillery has
been found. Examples of revived distilleries are Bladnoch, Bruichladdich and Glenglassaugh.

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(* The old technology used for Malt Madness doesn’t allow me to present the information in the most user-friendly
way possible. Check out my new personal website for a fresh attempt at a site, covering a wider range of topics.

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