Illustration by Eric DeFreitas
Scotch whisky names, many of which are rooted in Scottish Gaelic, can be challenging for some Americans to pronounce. Here’s a quick run-down of 16 Scotch brands, each spelled out phonetically, plus audio provided by a native of Scotland, Sarah Clark of International Beverage.
Translates from Gaelic as “stream of milk.” Of note, a “burn” is also a waterway, meaning a large stream or small river. Some more colorful variations translate the name as “milk burn,” but in reference to a stream, not a euphemism for too-strong whiskey.
Located in Knock (Gaelic for “hill”), Banffshire, the original name of this Scotch was Knockdu, which translates to “black hill.” However, in a bid to avoid confusion with Speyside producer Knockando, in 1994 the brand changed its name to anCnoc, which translates as “the hill.”
The name of this Lowland single malt is derived from the Gaelic Achadh an Oisein, and translates as “corner of the field.”
In short, this Scotch’s name means “stony shore bank,” which refers to the rocky beach that surrounds the Islay distillery. Longer answer: the name is derived from two Gaelic words, brudhach and chladdich, which translates to “brae by the shore” (“brae” meaning the slope of a hill). Much longer answer: see the company’s website.
From the Scottish Gaelic Bun na h-Abhainn, meaning “mouth of the river.”
Pronunciation: Cool EE-la
The name of this Islay producer of peaty whiskies translates as “the sound [or channel] of Islay.” The distillery is situated on the Sound of Islay, a narrow passage of water that separates the island of Islay from Scotland’s mainland.
A key component of Johnnie Walker blended Scotches, the name of this Speyside single malt originated from the Gaelic Carn Dubh, meaning “black rock.”
Situated on a cliff that overlooks the rivers Fiddich and Spey, the name of this Speyside distillery means “rocky hill.”
The “glen” prefix means valley. Here, the full name translates from Gaelic as “valley of the deer,” which is reflected in the brand’s stag logo. Fiddich also refers to the river Fiddich.
Pronunciation: Glen Geery
Glen is Gaelic for valley, but Garioch is taken from Scotland’s Doric dialect, and means “granary” (that’s why it isn’t pronounced like with a hard “k” sound, like “loch”). A granary is a storehouse for threshed grain, a reference to the barley-growing region surrounding the distillery. Of note, Glen Garioch is one of the few Scotch producers that floor-malts its own grain.
Pronunciation: Glen MORE-an-gee
According to the company, the name is an English corruption of the Gaelic Gleann mor na sith, roughly translating as “valley of tranquility.” Notably, in 2003 the producer won a dispute against a citizen who claimed the translation was incorrect and actually means “water meadow.”
Situated by Lagavulin Bay on the island of Islay, the name is derived from the Gaelic lag a’mhuilin, meaning “hollow by the mill.”
The name of this super-peaty single malt means “hollow by the big bay.”
A popular choice for blends, the name of this notably meaty Scotch means “big hill.”
Located on the west coast of Scotland in the fishing port town of Oban, the name is derived from An t-Òban, meaning “the little bay.”
This producer’s name translates to “little dark hill,” from the Gaelic tom (“hill”) and dubh (“black”).