LEXICON: From Racked Warehouse to Rye

When foreigners try to mimic a Scottish accent, the rolling Scottish R is one of
the features that is often employed enthusiastically. It’s tricky to get it exactly
right, so why don’t you use the whisky words below to train your pronunciation?
You might even want to pour yourself a stiff dram to help your lips and tongue
to loosen up a bit. And why don’t you follow me on Twitter or Facebook for more?


Casks in a racked warehouse are stacked higher than in ‘dunnage’.
A rating is a way to condense all impressions of a whisky in a number.
Re-racking is the process of transferring a whisky into another cask.
During recirculation the wort is drawn off from the bottom of the mash.
In a column still, the rectifier is the second column with a condenser.
An adjustable 'rectifying head' turns a pot still into a Lomond still.
The phrase ‘refill cask’ is so vague that it can mean many different things.
The refraction of light in a glass of whisky can provide some insights.
Within a whisky context, ‘region’ usually refers to a Scotch whisky region.
Rmy Cointreau is a ‘family run’ conglomerate, owning several brands.

Roast barley is unmalted barley which has been roasted in an oven.
While ‘toasting’ a cask involves light charring, roasting goes further.
The Robbie Dubh spring is the water source for Balvenie and Glenfiddich.
The Rosarie Burn is the (ultimate) water source for Glentauchers.
Some people claim that Rosebank was founded as long ago as 1773.
It took 40 million to construct the Roseisle distillery. It opened in 2010.
Rothes is an area within the Speyside whisky region in Scotland.
The Brackla distillery near Inverness dropped its ‘Royal’ prefix recently.
... while the Royal Lochnagar distillery in the East hangs on to it.
Some rubbing alcohol could be drunk, but it would be best not to risk it.
A rundlet is the smallest standard UK cask size - 1/14 tun or +/- 69 litres.
Rye is a type of grain (in the wheat tribe), closely related to barley.


Racked warehouse

Racked warehouse - casks stacked six rows high

Whisky casks in a traditional dunnage warehouse are
stored on their sides. Because the casks at the bottom
have to support the weight of the casks stacked on top
of them, casks can’t be stored higher than three rows.

For a long time this method of storage was sufficient
to keep up with Scotch whisky consumption, but a few
decades ago whisky producers had to come up with
ways to bring their storage capacity up to speed.

A racked warehouse allows casks to be stored 7
rows high (as in the picture at the right) or even more.
Those casks are stored upright in constructions with
support beams. This way, te casks on the bottom
rows can carry far greater weights on top of them.


Some people are fundamentally opposed to the idea of assigning a rating or score to a whisky - and I can
understand some of their arguments. However, I’ve always found it very helpful to compare the overall fun
a whisky gives me with the measure of fun I’ve had with other whiskies in the past. Needless to say, such
a personal and subjective number may have little value to other people - but it allows you to analyse your
own preferences - which can be helpful when shopping for whisky - and possibly developments over time.

Refill Cask

During the earliest years of whisky distillation, the product wasn’t usually matured in oak casks.
However, people discovered quite soon that the quality of the spirit improved notably after they had been
stored in oak casks for a period. These casks were almost invariably ‘refill casks’ - in the sense that they
had always contained other products (like wine or sherry) before. In fact, for many years the use of freshly
made oak casks to age whisky was actually illegal. Only recently the use of ‘virgin oak’ became permitted.


You may think that re-racking whisky means moving a cask in a racked warehouse from one spot to
another - that’s what I believed for years. However, it actually means the transfer of the contents of one
cask into another. This could be done to give it a finish or because the original cask was damaged.


A rundlet is a cask of a specific size in the British imperial system measuring roughly 70 metric litres.
Many sizes in this archaic system of measurements were defined in relation to other sizes. As such, the
rundlet was equal to one fourteenth of a tun (about 950 litres) or one seventh of a butt (+/- 475 litres).
This fairly small cask size was rarely used for maturation of whisky in the past, but in recent years small
casks were used more often to boost the ageing of bottlings like the Springbank Rundlets & Kilderkins.

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The grain rye is closely related to barley and wheat. The Roman writer Pliny the Elder wasn’t a fan, but
centuries later the crop still had developed into an important food source in northern and eastern Europe.
While the Europeans use the crop mainly as a basis for bread, the Americans seem to use it mostly for
the production of rye whiskey. While American rye whiskey must be distilled from a mash based on at least
51% rye, Canadian whisky can be called rye whiskey even though it doesn’t contain any rye at all.


In the broadest possible sense, refraction is a change in the direction of waves due to a change in its
transmission medium. In a slightly less broad definition, refraction means the different way light travels in
different substances. In relation to whisky consumption, the phenomenon of refraction can enhance your
enjoyment of a whisky through the way light plays with the contents of your glass. On a more functional
note, scientists now apparently have invented a device that uses refraction to identify fake whiskies.


The Rothes area in Speyside is home to the Glenrothes distillery - and a pretty good destination for
visitors to Scotland. The surroundings are beautiful and apart from the aforementioned GlenRothes
distillery there are four other malt whisky distilleries; Caperdonich, Glen Grant, Glen Spey and Speyburn. 
The area is named after the small town Rothes on the banks of the river Spey, 10 miles south of Elgin.
Despite a history that goes back for more than a thousand years, the town has a fairly small population.

(* 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.

Rubbing Alcohol

Like the name suggests, rubbing alcohol is meant for rubbing and not for drinking.
There are actually several different alcohols that are generally included in this category; isopropyl alcohol
but other ethanol (ethyl alcohol) based liquids as well. Ethanol itself isn’t poisonous like methanol (or rather
not nearly AS poisonous as methanol), but the producers still wouldn’t like their customers to use it as a
cheap alternative to whisky. To make the product less attractive for drinking, bitter flavourings are added.


One of the variables in malt whisky production and maturation is the level of charring of the inside of
the cask. The lightest form of charring is ‘toasting’, which usually doesn’t take the cooper more than
15-20 seconds. Roasting takes longer - and it is generally only applied to American bourbon casks.
In the American bourbon industry at least four levels of charring are widely used, ranging from a No. 1
char (15 seconds) and a No. 2 char (30 seconds) to a No. 3 (35 seconds) and No. 4 (55 seconds) char.

Roast Barley

So-called roast barley is unmalted barley which has been roasted in an oven. It is used to produce ‘dark’
beers like stout - for example Guinness from Ireland - while people in Asia use it to make some type of tea.
So-called ‘black malt’ may seem similar, but that is actually malted. After the year 2000 some American
distillers have experimented with roast barley for the production of their version of ‘malt whisky’, but
the rules for Scotch malt whisky prohibit the use of unmalted barley.

Rmy Cointreau

The French spirits company Rmy Cointreau was established in 1990 as the result of a merger between
cognac producer Rmy Martin and liqueur producer Cointreau. The ‘house’ of Rmy Martin was founded
in 1724 while the Cointreau brothers established their liqueur company in 1849. In the year 2000 they
acquired the brands Bols and Metaxa. The company entered the malt whisky industry relatively recently
when they bought the Bruichladdich distillery on Islay from a group of private investors.

Rectifying Head

Stills with a rectifying head resemble regular pot stills, but they have some features that make them
work more like the column stills that produce grain whisky. Once upon a time the ‘Lomond stills’ with one
or more rectifying plates in their neck could be found at several Scotch whisky distilleries, but they were
mostly phased out decades ago due to concerns about the quality of the spirit they produced. However,
the Loch Lomond distillery still uses them for whiskies like Glen Douglas, Inchmoan and Inchmurrin.


The term rectifier usually refers to a part of a fairly typical column still a.k.a. continuous still.
A typical column still consists of two columns; an analyzer (the first column) and a rectifier (the 2nd column).
Wash is (continuously) pumped into the top of the rectifier where it flows down a long coil. As the wash travels
down the coil it is heated by the vapours from the still, before being fed into the top of the first still column.
A ‘Lomond Still’ resembles a regular pot still, but the neck contains so-called ‘rectifier plates’.

The process of recirculation of mash is used in brewing and whisky distillation. The name usually refers
to the beginning of the beer brewing and whisky making process which involves the drawing off of the wort
from the mash in the mash tun. The goal is the removal of undesirable solids and proteins from the mash.
However, the term recirculation may also refer to a particular stage in the lautering process, the other
stages being mashout and sparging).


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