We're known for our enthusiastic beer drinking and wine, well, that goes without saying. Now recently. South Africans have been developing a rather fond spot for whisky. And with the FNB Whisky Live Festival opening up for Cape Town and later on this month in Joburg, we know what many people will be doing over the next few days.
We've created a glossary of terms for novice whisky-lovers to help you make sense of all the spirit-sipping work you'll be getting up to during your visit to the festival.
If we've missed any, or if there are any you'd like us to explain in greater detail, leave a comment below.
Age — reflects the age of the youngest whisky used to produce the product. A whisky stops aging as soon as it is bottled. An aged scotch is known as a "guaranteed age whisky."
Alcohol by Volume — today, this is more frequently used to indicate alcohol level in whisky. Also known as degrees Gay-Lussac. Whisky normally ranges between 40 to 55 percent.
Barrel maturation — this is where whisky gains its character and colour. Historically, barrels previously used for sherry were used but today, French oak barrels that previously contained wines are used too. This aging process results in some evaporation -- as much as 1.5 to two percent can evaporate annually.
Blends — this refers to the number of malts and grains used in the process of making whisky. If more than one malt is used in scotch, it is considered blended. The same will apply to Irish whisky if the more than one type of grain or malt is used.
Bourbon — an American whiskey made using a minimum of 70 percent corn. The remaining grain may include wheat, rye or malted barley. Has been produced since the 18th Century. Strongly associated with Kentucky.
Drinking your whisky — a Scotch whisky is usually drunk neat or with a little splash of water to "open up" the fragrance and flavour.
Irish — must be distilled and aged in Ireland. It must also be barrel-aged for at least three years before bottling.
Malt — cereal grains (usually barley) that have been dried in a process known as "malting"
Nosing the glass — like wine, whisky has fragrance which is best to sniff before you take a sip to help you process and appreciate the subtle perfumes given off.
Peat — gives a whisky a smoky character
Pot still — used to distill whisky through a process of heat which helps to concentrate the alcohol. Usually made of copper or stainless steel.
Proof — the level of alcohol in whisky. Spirit such as whisky usually has a proof of about 57.1 percent.
Scotch — blended from malt and grain. Made in Scotland. Aged in oak barrels for a minimum of three years.
Single malt — using one type of malted grain. Usually barley.
Sour mash — the process of using old material from an existing batch of whiskey to encourage or start fermentation in a new batch. It does not refer to the flavour of a whiskey. It is a method mostly used for Bourbon whiskey.
Tennessee — also a Bourbon, but authorised by the State of Tennessee. Most Tennessee whiskeys will undergo a further distillation process called the Lincoln County Process which entails the whiskey being filtered over a layer of maple coal. This gives Tennessee whiskey colour and a fragrant, woody flavour.
Whiskey — accepted as the Irish and American spelling. Generally, "whiskey" is assumed to have originated from these two areas.
Whisky — the spelling used for Scotch and British varieties. Also the British spelling of the word.
Click here to read more about FNB Whisky Live Festival.