Finding the perfect word to capture the complex flavours in cask strength Society single malts isn’t an easy cask. And sometimes the language can leave some of us scratching our heads in bewilderment. Here’s our ongoing guide to some of those more obscure Tasting Note references

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If you’ve ever been left more than a little baffled by some of the references on our Tasting Notes, don’t worry – you’re not alone. But the Society’s language is all part of the fun – and without digging around online, you may never have discovered the perfect word to describe the smell of rainfall on dry soil (that’s petrichor, by the way).

SMWS TASTING NOTES GLOSSARY

Allspice: not a mix of spices, but the dried berry of the West Indian allspice tree, which is similar to cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and pepper

Balsa wood: a light, soft wood often used to build aircraft models with a fresh woody fragrance

Bergamot: citrus fruit with a slightly woody scent

Berwick cockle: crumbly mint sweets

Big Red: cinnamon flavoured brand of chewing gum

Brasso: metal polish

Butterscotch: confectionery made with brown sugar and butter, similar to toffee

Calvados: apple or pear brandy from Normandy in northern France

Camphor: compound from the camphor tree used in creams, lotions and ointments such as Tiger Balm

Coffee kisses: light biscuits made with cocoa powder

Cola cubes: cola flavoured boiled sweets shaped in a cube

Crab sticks: imitation crab seafood sticks, using white fish

Crunchie bar: chocolate bar with a honeycomb toffee sugar centre

Custard cream: popular UK biscuit with a creamy custard-flavoured filling

Dandelion and Burdock: popular soft drink in Scotland similar to root beer

Dolly mixtures: British sweetie with a mix of soft sweets and sugar-coated jellies

Dunnage: traditional whisky warehouse with an earthen floor

Edinburgh rock: soft, crumbly sweet made with cream of tartar

Fisherman’s Friend: powerful menthol throat lozenge

Fruit Mentos: chewy fruit-flavoured sweets

Germoline: antiseptic cream used for first aid

Gewurztraminer wine: sweet white wine from Alsace in France

Greengages: plum known for its rich, confectionery flavour

Harissa: North African hot chili pepper paste

Hawick ball: caramelised sugar with oil of peppermint

Hessian: woven fabric, known as burlap in the US, commonly used for bags and sacks

Humbug: hard-boiled peppermint-flavoured sweet

Juicy Fruit: brand of chewing gum with a sweet taste

Kumquat/cumquat: small citrus fruit

Lambic ale: fermented Belgian beer

Lemon posset: citrus pudding

Lemon puffs: lemon-flavoured biscuit

Limoncello: lemon liqueur from Italy

Macaroon bar: tooth-rotting Scottish sweetie made with mashed potato, chocolate and coconut

Manuka honey: type of honey native to New Zealand made from the nectar of the manuka tree

Marshmallows: squishy sweet confectionery, good for campfires

Mirabelle: a kind of plum, sweet and full of flavour

Miso: traditional Japanese fermented seasoning paste

Monkey nuts: alternative name for peanuts

Monster Munch: baked corn snack, available in a variety of flavours

Moscatel: naturally sweet Spanish wine

Nussecken: German nutty cookies

Nutella: sweet hazelnut cocoa spread

Petrichor: the smell of dry earth after rainfall

Pick n’ mix: form of confectionery where you

Plasticine: putty-like modelling clay

Rancio: rich, earthy, mushroomy characteristics especially associated with aged cognacs

Raspberry Ruffle: coconut and raspberry sweetie

Sauternes: sweet white French wine from Bordeaux region

Sirop de Liège: Jelly-like pear spread from Belgium

Starburst: fruit-flavoured soft sweets, formerly known as Opal Fruits

Strawberry laces: strings of red liquorice sweets

Swizzel double lollies: fruity lollipops with a chalky texture

Tangfastics: sugar-coated tangy sour sweeties

Tunnock’s tea cakes: traditional Scottish biscuit with soft marshmallow covered in chocolate

Verbena: plant with a distinctive lemony citronella smell

Victory Vs: strong British liquorice-flavoured lozenges

Vino de naranja: sweet orange wine from Andalucia in Spain

Whitebait: tiny fish, usually fried and eaten whole

Wormwood: plant used to flavour absinthe and the basis of vermouth, smells of a savoury herb like sage


Whether you understand every reference isn’t important, and part of the pleasure of appreciating whisky is in finding your own associations with its aromas and flavours. So why not set up your own form of informal Tasting Panel with some friends and try it for yourself? Download everything you need here and start creating your own whisky glossary.

There are certain categories that the Tasting Panel returns to, in search of that specific aroma or flavour. Some of the most common ones are:

SWEETIES

Bubblegum, tutti frutti, buttermints, spiced liquorice, herbal chewing gum, toffee, fudge, walnut whip, chocolate orange, Turkish delight, cola cubes, orange Aero, Cherry Tunes, Old English spangles, Liquorice Allsorts, Macaroon bars, dolly mixtures, aniseed balls, Fisherman’s Friends, marshmallow, sherbet, fruit salad chews, humbugs, candy floss, caramel popcorn, pickled onion monster munch, Moffat toffees

WINES AND DRINKS

Amontillado sherry, navy rum, sauvignon blanc, peach schnapps, port, heather ale, Grand Marnier, barley wine, foaming IPA, herb liqueurs, dandelion and burdock, farmhouse cider, lambic ales, aged cognac, Kriek, brandy, aged Armagnac, Calvados, blanc du blanc Champagne, Gewurztraminer wine, smoky Libertine cocktail’, strawberry liqueur, nettle cordial, lime juice, cabernet sauvignon, cherry kirsch, tropical rum punch, Pimms, mead, grappa, ginger beer, Seville orange wine, German Rauchbier, green chartreuse

SPICES AND FLAVOURINGS

Chilli, clove, aniseed, ginger, turmeric, red chilli, nutmeg, cinnamon, black pepper, pink peppercorns, paprika, vanilla, sage, wasabi, cardamom, mustard powder, lemongrass, tarragon, rosemary, thyme, caraway, fennel, cumin

CAKES

Vanilla cheesecake, battenberg cake, marshmallow teacakes, hot-cross buns, banana bread, flapjack, pecan pie, blueberry muffins, lemon tart, ginger cake, treacle tart, molasses cake, Eccles cakes, almond, honey and fig cake, frangipane tart, Nutella sticky buns, butter shortbread, marzipan, vanilla sponge cake, trifle, creme brulee, almond croissants, Swiss roll, rhubarb crumble, pancakes, plum duff

HOT DRINKS

Lapsang souchong, Earl Grey, espresso, mocha, coffee grinds, chamomile, Bovril

FLOWERS AND PLANTS

Lavender, wild sorrel, mint, rose petals, gorse, ferns, bracken, jasmine, rosemary, clover, juniper, parsley, chives, pine, tarragon, bog myrtle, heather, nasturtiums

FRUIT

Citrus peel, orange, mango, baked apple, pineapple cubes, gooseberry, lime, peaches, apricots, fig, prunes, dark fruit chutney, papaya, cherries, cranberries, plum, apples, melon, damson, strawberries, flambeed banana, pomegranates, grapes, dates, mandarin, satsuma, pears, coconut, pumpkin, kiwi, lychee, lemons, grapefruit, blackcurrants, brambles, quince

SAUCES

Hot BBQ sauce, tabasco, horseradish

FOOD

Lamb, raisins, brandy butter, rhubarb and ginger jam, apricot jam, mushroom risotto umami, beef jerky, bacon, scallops, rye bread, honey, golden syrup, sourdough, Peshwari naan, biltong

NUTS

Brazil, walnuts, hazlenuts, almonds, cashews

OILS

Olive, tea tree, walnut, orange, sunflower, lamp oil, truffle, lemon, graphite, lavender, camphor, linseed, sea buckthorn, citrus

RANDOM

Rancio, leather, tobacco, bicycle inner tube, chimney soot, charcoal, tar, ash, heat rub, shisha pipe smoke, petrichor, hessian bung cloth, dunnage funk, putty, autolytic, umami, brasso, fag packets, iodine, antiseptic, kippers, creosote, physalis

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