Guide: How to Pronounce Scotch Whisky Distilleries

Multnomah Whiskey Library, Portland, OR.

A take on pronouncing the classic Whiskies of Scotland.

Many foreign language terms from the world of beverages can be tongue-twisters, and Scotch Whisky is no exception. Brands like Highland Park are easy enough, but what about Bruichladdich, Té Bheag or Allt-á-Bhainne? Is the word Islay pronounced as it reads?

These are questions answered by the experience of working in a restaurant or behind a bar. Guests can often be the best teachers for such lessons. Some guests are too shy to order something new verbally, opting to point at the menu for safety, hoping to hear the word said properly by a server. Others with drams of experience list off names like a breeze, sometimes missing or inventing syllabic emphasis. Either way, a beverage professional can be available as a humble resource, for guidance on the finer points of the drink. It all starts with the name.

In talking about a distillery, how silly does it sound when an exaggerated accent is thrown in, to attempt authenticity? When done by a non-native speaker, the result is clearly bogus. Is anyone fooled?

Cragganmore - trying too hard.

A plain-Jane rendition of the word communicates its meaning correctly, without raising eyebrows.

Cragganmore - spoken normally.

Leave it to the native speakers to roll the hard Rs and such. We can still do the best we can, and that’s what this resource is for. These pronunciations have been compiled from years working behind the bar, and learning from trusted sources, including brand ambassadors and distillers. Mark and Brian Canlis are also fantastic sources of knowledge, build by their many trips to Scotland. Their restaurant has one of the most profound collections of Scotch Whisky in the country, including an authentic Springbank barrel in the cellar.

Presented below is a list of the Whisky GI regions of Scotland, featuring famous producers. In some cases, the specific bottlings of various producers have been included for their unique names, which buck the old industry trend of age-specific titles. NAS or non-age-statement Whiskies are becoming more common, possibly due to global demand exceeding the supply for well-aged juice.

The regions are listed from a rough north-to-south order. The producers and any specific bottlings are listed in a subjective most-to-least-available order. In other words, the regions start with Highland in the north, ending with Lowland in the south. The Highland producers start with the giant Glenmorangie and their various bottlings, and end with the lesser-known Teaninich. Islands are listed in a similar order, based on typical availability. This list is not exhaustive, and has sought to highlight the essential Scotch producers, with a few niche examples included. Independent Bottlers, Multi-Region Single Malt, Blended Scotch, Blended Malt, Single Grain and Scottish Gin have been included as a bonus, again ordered by typical presence in the market. Enjoy!

As for pronunciations, they are at best accurate attempts, spoken by an ordinary American who may have a fraction of Scottish blood. There are many ways to say anything; just think of the word Pecan! Scotch Whisky is a serious subject, not to be taken too seriously. It’s all a dram of fun! Feel free to offer feedback via email here, or leave a comment below with thoughts or corrections.

*** Thanks to Scottish native Naveed B., for sharing some excellent phonetic refinements to the audio files. Corrections have been indicated with text.  As Naveed indicates, the first syllable should always be stressed.

Here is an excellent resource for Gaelic pronunciations: http://www.faclair.com/

The full list text is available in PDF form here, free of charge. Feel free to share! The attached maps of Scotland are great resource to follow along with. Images courtesy of Nicks Wine Merchants, www.nicks.com.au
Scotch Whisky Map

Scotland Map

Speyside Distillery Map, Scotland

Speyside/Islay Map

Geographic Indications:

  • Highlands and Islands (including the isles of Skye, Orkney, Mull, Jura, Arran, Lewis and Barra)
  • Highland
    • Glenmorangie
      • Nectar d'Or
      • Quinta Ruban
      • Ealanta
      • Lasanta
      • Companta
      • Sonnalta
      • Signet
    • Oban
    • Edradour
    • Dalwhinnie
    • Dalmore
    • Balblair
    • Speyburn
    • Blair Athol
    • Clynelish
    • Glengoyne
    • Old Pulteney
    • Royal Lochnagar
    • Teaninich
      • “tchananeech” ***
  • Islands
    • Talisker (Skye)
    • Highland Park (Orkney)
    • Scapa (Orkney)
    • Tobermory (Mull)
    • Ledaig (Mull)
    • Jura (Jura)
    • Arran (Arran)
    • Lochranza (Arran)
    • Abhainn Dearg (Lewis)
    • Barra (Barra)
  • Speyside
    • Glenfiddich
    • Macallan
    • Glenlivet
    • Balvenie
    • Cragganmore
    • Aberlour
      • A'bunadh
    • Glenrothes
    • Glenfarclas
    • BenRiach
    • AnCnoc (Knockdhu)
    • Auchroisk
    • Glen Elgin
    • Tomintoul
    • Benromach
    • Mortlach
    • Strathisla
    • GlenDronach
    • Cardhu
    • Allt-á-Bhainne
      • “aa-lllt a Van ye” ***
    • Mannochmore
    • Dailuaine
    • Knockando
  • Islay
    • Ardbeg
      • Uigeadail
      • Corryvreckan
      • Perpetuum
      • Blasda
      • Auriverdes
      • Airigh Nam Beist
        • “airy nam baysht” ***
      • Fèis Ìle
        • “faysh eel eh” ***
      • Haar
      • Kildalton
      • Mór
      • Provenance
    • Lagavulin
    • Laphroaig
    • Bruichladdich
    • Bowmore
    • Coal Ila
    • Bunnahabhain
      • “boona havan (or boona ha wen)” (locals’ variation, depending on place of origin)
    • Kilchoman
    • Port Charlotte
    • Port Ellen
  • Campbeltown
    • Springbank
      • Hazelburn
      • Longrow
    • Glengyle
    • Glen Scotia
  • Lowland
    • Auchentoshan
    • Glenkinchie
    • Bladnoch
    • Ailsa Bay
    • Daftmill
    • Rosebank
    • Ladyburn
  • Independent Bottlers
    • Gordon & MacPhail
      • Connoisseurs Choice
    • Duncan Taylor
    • A.D. Rattray
    • Blackadder
    • Murray McDavid
    • Cadenhead's
    • Signatory
    • Adelphi
    • The Scotch Malt Whisky Society
  • Multi-Region Single Malt
    • McClelland's
  • Blended Scotch
    • Johnny Walker
    • Dewar's
    • Chivas Regal
    • Famous Grouse
    • Cutty Sark
    • J&B
    • Ballantine's
    • Té Bheag
      • “tchay vayk” ***
    • Grant's
    • Whyte & Mackay
      • “Mack eye” ***
  • Blended Malt
    • Sheep Dip
    • Compass Box Peat Monster
    • Wemyss
    • Poit Dhubh
      • “potch ghoo” (the dh of Dhubh is a bit like the German guttural r)
  • Single Grain
    • Girvan
    • Invergordon
    • Strathclyde
  • Scottish Gin
    • Hendrick's
    • Blackwood's
    • The Botanist

 

For your convenience, the playlist below features every term in alphabetical order. Individual tracks may be downloaded via the player, or all together with this link: Scotch Pronunciation Collection by Medium Plus

Alphabetical Scotch Distilleries

 

If that wasn’t enough, check out this Youtube playlist, with Mr. Brian Cox. He rolls his Rs really well.

 

Thanks for reading!

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