In this series of articles, we look at how some of the most popular brands of Scotch have been butchered and how you could pronounce them without drawing weird glances or accidentally summoning a Germanic demon.
Let’s face it. The language is inconsistent. Words like “Colonel”, “chaos” or “façade” aren’t pronounced the way they are spelt. If no one taught us how to pronounce these words, we would have embarrassingly mispronounced one of them in a formal setting. God forbid during a board meeting or at a company event!
As we get into the world of whisky, a similar problem thing that amuses (and sometimes annoys) us is how very unusual, outlandish and tongue-twisting some Scotch distilleries’ names can be. This difficulty is really because Scotch brands are almost always written using Scottish Gaelic language.
A slightly embarrassing situation could arise when we butcher the name of our boss’ favourite Islay single malt. “This is an excellent dram of Lap-frog, boss.” “Excuse me, what frog?”
Please bear in mind that although the following pronunciations are accepted by the majority of whisky drinkers, I am by no means an expert on the Scottish Gaelic language. I am also prone to the occasional lisp or slurred speech after 2 or 3 drams.
And with that disclaimer out of the way, let’s get a little familiar with these musical, peculiar and maddening pronunciations and confidently order our Scotch single malt at the bar!
You might already be familiar with this iconic liquid campfire from the Islay region that is also the best-selling brand of Islay single malt. Did you know that Laphroaig Distillery’s land holdings are so vast that, any random person who purchases a bottle of Laphroaig is eligible to own a square foot of Islay land?
This is not pronounced “leap frog”, “lapfrog” or “lafrock”. Go for “LA-FROYG”.
Sold in over 180 countries and accounting for at least 35% of single malt sales worldwide, Glenfiddich is the international best-selling single malt Scotch. Any bartender is sure to have a Glenfiddich on hand for serving, this light, honeyed and grassy single malt - a taste profile is very well received by Scots and Asians alike. Glenfiddich was also one of the first distilleries to begin using the term and market its whisky as a “Single Malt”
English speakers like us instinctively like to pronounce this as “glen-fid-ditch” in a way that rhymes with the flying broom sport from the Harry Potter series. According to Scotsmen, this should actually be “GLEN-FI-DICK” with an exaggerated “kh” noise at the end of the final syllable. Just Imagine you are clearing your throat slightly.
To learn more about the fascinating story of Glenfiddich Distillery check out our Whiskydex article.
Auchentoshan was founded by Irish refugees in the 1800s and is one of the few remaining active distilleries in the Scottish Lowland. The secret of why Auchentoshan so smooth, so effortless to drink and so popular with the younger crowd lies in the distillery’s practice of “Triple-Distilling” the spirit (as opposed to most Scotch distilleries that only distil twice). This results in a very light, sweet and friendly resulting spirit.
I’ll confess – for several years I have avoided pronouncing the name of this distillery for fear of being seen as a fool. This is regularly mangled, with some attempts at “aw-chen-to-shan”. The correct pronunciation is a little German sounding: “AW-EN-TOSH-EN”.
So here are 3 more Scotches we can confidently order at the bar without butchering their names. Of course, when in doubt, just point and smile : )