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Gaelic and Scotch Whisky / Gàidhlig agus Uisge-beatha Albannach

Gaelic and Scotch Whisky / Gàidhlig agus Uisge-beatha Albannach

Gaelic is the original and ancient language of Scotland and has a rich oral and written tradition. Similarly, Scotch whisky distilling has a long tradition in Scotland so it is not surprising that over time Gaelic has become embedded in the Scotch whisky industry.

Originally, Gaelic was the language of making whisky. It was still commonly heard in the Highland and Island distilleries at the start of the twentieth century and old Gaelic names can be found for all parts of the still and whisky manufacturing process not mere translations of their English equivalents. Gaelic was also a way of keeping illegal stills secret from the English-speaking revenue officers.

However, it is beginning to be heard again in a few of the new distilleries in the Outer Hebrides and Western Isles. Although Gaelic disappeared as the language of manufacturing it still remains today important in the branding of Scotch whisky products. The majority of brands and products that use Gaelic words or phrases are single malts and Gaelic brand names tend to be used to exemplify the upper end of the whisky market.

Use of Gaelic adds to the authenticity and provenance of a single malt whisky. A Gaelic name today can play a central part in the history, marketing and identity of a Scotch Whisky.

To illustrate the point, below is a list of Gaelic Scotch whisky distillery names and their translated meaning.

What’s in a name? 80 Gaelic distillery names & their meaning…

  1. Aberfeldy Pool of the water god

  2. Aberlour Chattering burn

  3. Abhainn Dearg Red river

  4. Allt' a Bhainne The milk burn

  5. Ardbeg Small headland

  6. Ardmore Big promontory

  7. Arran Place of peaked hills

  8. Auchentoshan Corner of the field

  9. Auchroisk Ford across the red stream

  10. Aultmore Big burn

  11. Balblair Farm on the moor

  12. Balmenach The middle farm

  13. Balvenie Village of monks

  14. BenRiach Speckled mountain

  15. Benrinnes Promontory hill

  16. Benromach Hill of flowing streams

  17. Blair Athol Plain of the new Ireland

  18. Bowmore The big reef

  19. Brackla Speckled hilltop or "the badger's sett"

  20. Braeval (Braes of Glenlivet) Hillside or steep bank

  21. Bruichladdich The brae by the shore

  22. Bunnahabhain Mouth or bottom of the river

  23. Caol Ila The Sound of Islay

  24. Cardhu Black rock

  25. Clynelish Golden meadows (alternatively sloped garden)

  26. Cragganmore (Cragan Mor) Big crag

  27. Craigellachie Dangerous rock (or rock of the stony place)

  28. Dailuaine The green vale or meadow

  29. Dallas Dhu Field by the black waterfall

  30. Dalmore Big meadow land (Gaelic and Norse)

  31. Dalwhinnie Plain of meetings or meeting place or field of the champion

  32. Deanston The hill fort or Dean's Farm

  33. Duff town Town named after its founder, James Duff

  34. Edradour Between two waters

  35. Fettercairn Foot of the mount (Cairn 0' Mount) or wooded slope

  36. Glen Elgin Glen of little Ireland

  37. Glen Grant Grant's Glen (a Grant founded the distillery)

  38. Glen Moray Gaelic Glen Moireibh, meaning valley of the sea settlement

  39. Glen Ord The glen of the rounded hill

  40. Glen Scotia Glen of the Scots

  41. GlenalIachie Glen at the rocky place

  42. Glenburgie Glen of the fort (part of norse)

  43. Glendronach Glen of the brambles (blackberries)

  44. Glendullan Glen of the standing rock

  45. Glenfarclas Glen of the green grassland

  46. Glenfiddich Fid's Glen or Glen of the stag

  47. Glenglassaugh Glen of the grey green place

  48. Glengoyne Glen of the wild geese

  49. Glenkinchie Glen of the de Quinccy family landowners

  50. Glenlivet Glen of the River Livet or Glen of the smooth place

  51. Glenlossie Glen of the River Lossie

  52. Glenmorangie The glen of tranquillity (or Glen ofthe big meadow)

  53. Glentauchers Glen of the Tauchers burn

  54. Glenturret Glen of the little dry stream

  55. Isle of Arran Isle of the high place

  56. Isle of Jura Isle of the deer

  57. Kilchoman Church of Saint Choman

  58. Knockando Little black hill

  59. Knockdhu Black hill

  60. Lagavulin The hollow where the mill is

  61. Laphroaig The hollow by the broad bay

  62. Ledaig (or Tobermory) The small slope (or the Norse derivation is a bay difficult to enter)

  63. Longmorn Holy man

  64. Macallan 'Fillan's plain or son of Allan

  65. Mannochmore Place of the monks

  66. Miltonduff Vale of Duff (family name)

  67. Mortlach Bowl-shaped valley or law place of Moray or big bill

  68. Oban Little bay

  69. Royal Brackla Royal name given by King William IV to the malt whisky which he liked (Brackla means speckled hill slope or 'the badger's sett')

  70. Royal Lochnagar Noisy or laughing water (Royal comes from the distillery being on Balmoral Estate)

  71. Scapa Boat

  72. Strathmill Broad river valley

  73. Strathisla Wide valley of the River Isla

  74. Talisker Sloping rock

  75. Tamdhu Small black hill

  76. Tamnavulin The mill on the hill

  77. Teaninic House on the moor

  78. Tomintoul The barn on the little hill or the mound on the hill

  79. Tormore Big hill

  80. Tullibardine Hill of warnin

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