Top 10 mispronounced Scotch brands
Gaelic may still be the beloved spoken tongue among some communities, but international consumers constantly grapple with the language when trying to order their favourite Scotch whisky.
Itself derived from the Gaelic term “uisce beatha”, meaning “water of life”, the Scotch whisky industry is certainly not short of a tongue twister or two.
While consumers may have little trouble enunciating the name of most Speyside and Lowland distilleries, those based in the Highlands and Islands present further difficulties.
Scotch lovers can wander into embarrassing territory when ordering a dram of Wemyss, Glen Garioch or Bruichladdich. The omission of a guttural “och” and pronunciation of silent letters may lead to condescending smirks or an outright guffaw from industry showoffs.
If you want to avoid such uncomfortable experiences, click through the following pages to discover our pick of the top 10 commonly mispronounced Scotch whisky brands, and how to say them correctly.
Many an untrained tongue would be tempted to emphasise the “a” and “och”, perhaps even coverting to “ock”, in this Scotch whisky name, however it is actually pronounced “Glen Geery”. The East Highland distillery, owned by Morrison Bowmore, was founded in 1797, making it one of the oldest Scotch whisky distilleries still in operation. It is named after the Valley of the Garioch, traditionally thought of as one of the finest barley growing area of Scotland.
Constantly tripping up whisky novices is Bunnahabhain – which should be spoken with an enunciated “oo” at the start and “van” as opposed to “hain” at the end. Founded in 1881, the distillery’s name is indicative of the tricky Scotch pronunciations found on the island of Islay – itself pronounced “eye la”. A typically heavily peated, smoke-filled malt, Bunnahabhain is based near Port Askaig, pronounced “Asgaig”.
Commonly referred to as “Wemiss”, Wemyss is actually pronounced “Weems”. Founded by the Wemyss family in 2005, Wemyss Malts is an Edinburgh-based whisky and gin bottling company. The family name comes from the Gaelic word for “caves” and is a nod to the rocky outcrop on the Firth of Forth on which the Wemyss family home, Wemyss Castle, sits.
Many a dram drinker has made the mistake of making an “ick” or even “ich” sound at the end of the name of this Islay Scotch whisky. Correctly pronounced “Brook-laddie”, this distillery’s Gaelic name is often interpreted as “stony shore bank”, referring to its rugged island location. Owned by French drinks giant Rémy Cointreau, Bruichladdich is regarded for its innovative approach to whisky making and recently announced plans to double its capacity.
Avoid embarrassment and replace “aig” for “chig” when tackling the deceptive name of this Scotch brand, which is made at the Tobermory Distillery on the Isle of Mull. Founded in 1798 by John Sinclaire, the distillery was formerly known as the Ledaig Distillery and is now owned by Burn Stewart Distillers. While the core Ledaig range consists of a 12- and 18-year-old bottling, Burn Stewart Distillers unveiled just 500 bottles of a 42-year-old variant of the brand costing £3,500 earlier this year.
Not “Cowl Isla” as many might guess, but pronounced “Cull eela”. Caol Isla is, similar to Bunnahabhain, based near Port Askaig on the isle of Islay. Its name is Gaelic for “Sound of Isla” and refers to the distillery’s location overlooking the strait between Islay and Jura. Founded in 1846, the distillery is the largest distillery on Islay and is currently owned by the world’s biggest alcoholic drinks group, Diageo. Most of the peaty whisky it produces is used in some of the Scotland’s best-known blended malts, but the distillery also creates its own range of single malt bottlings.
Another tricky Scotch name from Islay is Laphroaig, pronounced “La-froyg”. Named after an area of land at the head of Loch Laphroaig on the south coast of Islay. Thought to mean “the beautiful hollow by the broad bay” in Gaelic, the distillery was founded in 1815 and celebrated its 200th anniversary this year. It is currently owned by Illinois-based Beam Suntory.
Many will feel satisfaction for replacing the “cho” sound in Kilchoman for a “ko”, but, alas, their attempt still falls short since all traces of the “c” are silent in the correct pronunciation. This farm-based Islay distillery is one of the smallest in Scotland and claims to be the only location to complete all parts of the whisky making process on site. Kilchoman is one of only a handful of distilleries still practicing floor malting, and uses barley grown on-site at its own farm. Opened in 2005, the distillery was the first to be built on Islay in 124 years.
Most people can pronounce Speyside distilleries, such as The Macallan, The Glenlivet and Glen Grant, relatively error-free. However, Dailuaine, based in Strathspey, has long-proved troublesome for Gaelic novices and is actually pronounced “Dall yoo-an” – unless you’re from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, then its “tdall oo-anga”. Dailuaine, currently owned by Diageo, derives its name from the Scottish Gaelic “an dail uaine” meaning “the green meadow”. The bulk of single malt produced at the distillery is used for blending in Johnnie Walker.
The final inclusion in our pick of commonly mispronounced Scotch whisky brands and distilleries is Auchroisk, which should be enunciated “Othrusk”. Opened in 1974 principally to produce malt whisky for the J&B brand, a limited number of Auchroisk single malts have been released through independent bottling firm Douglas Laing. Until 2001, the distillery produced single malt liquid for The Singleton Scotch whisky brand, since the brand name Auchroisk was deemed too difficult to pronounce.The Singleton is now produced at the Dufftown Distillery.