Whisky has a long and proud history, especially in Scotland. Distilleries were often built hundreds of years ago in the region and were named with Gaelic names which was the tradition of that times. Today thousands of enthusiasts know these names by hearth but not many actually knows the meaning and the origin of these names. In this post I will try to shed some light on the Gaelic names and origins of Whisky Brand Names.
Gaelic or sometimes also referred to as Scottish Gaelic, is a language native to Scotland. It ultimately descends from Old Irish and is a member of Celtic languages. Around 60,000 people in Scotland, mainly from the Outer Hebrides region, can speak the language as per the 2011 census.
Here is a list of 20 Scottish distilleries with Gaelic names and their meanings.
Aberlour – [aber-lower] is the name of a town in Moray, Scotland. The name comes from the lour stream that feeds River Spey. The word originates from the Scottish Gaelic words Obar Lobhair
AnCnoc – [ah-knock] The original name of the distillery was Knockdu [knock-doo] and was derived from the Gaelic word Cnoc Dubh meaning “Black Hill”. Back in 1994, due to confusion with Knockando distillery, they were forced to rename into AnCnoc meaning “The Hill”
Ardbeg – [ard-beg] is a Scotch whisky distillery in Ardbeg on the south coast of the isle of Islay, Argyll and Bute, Scotland, in the Inner Hebrides group of islands. The original name is Àirde Beaga, which translates into “little height”
Auchentoshan – [ach-en-toshen] is a Single Malt whisky distillery in the west of Scotland. The name itself is derived from the Gaelic word Achadh an Oisein translating into “corner of the field”
Benriach – [ben-ree-ak] is a distillery located near Elgin in the ‘Lossie’ part of Speyside, just between Linkwood and Longmorn. The words origins are often speculated, Benn means “mountain” in Gaelic. Riach can be couple of things. The most used translation is “speckled mountain” but there are other suggestions that Riach may refer to an old farm in the region named “red deer”
Bruichladdich – [brooch-laddy] is a distillery from the Isle of Islay. The name is derived from two words, brudhach and chladdich. The translation means “brae by the shore” or “stony shore bank”
Bunnahabhain – [boona-habben or boona-havven] is the name of the distillery and a village on the northeast coast of the isle of Islay, which is in the Argyll and Bute area of Scotland, in the Inner Hebrides group of islands. It means “mouth of the river coming from the words Bun na h-Abhainn
Caol Ila – [Cool-Eye-Lah] is a Scotch whisky distillery near Port Askaig on the isle of Islay. Caol Ila is derived from Gaelic Caol Ìle for “Sound of Islay” in reference to the distillery’s location overlooking the strait between Islay and Jura.
Cardhu – [car-do] meaning “Black Rock”. It derives from the Gaelic words Carn Dubh.
Craggenmore – [crag-en-more] Cragganmore is a distillery located in the Speyside region. The name comes from the Gaelic AnCreagan mor meaning “the big rock”
Craigellachie – [krai-gell-achy] comes from Creag Eileachaidh meaning “Rocky Hill”. It refers to the small hill overlooking river Spey.
Dalwhinnie – [dalh-winnie] Set in splendid mountain scenery, Dalwhinnie is the one of the highest distilleries in Scotland at 1164′ above sea level. The name Dalwhinnie is derived from Gaelic word Dail-coinneeamh, which means meeting place, referring to the meeting of ancient cattle drovers’ routes through the mountains.
Glenfarclas – [glen-far-klas] Glenfarclas distillery is a Speyside whisky distillery in Ballindalloch, Scotland. The word Glenfarclas translates as “valley of the green grass”.
Glenfiddich – [glen-fiddick] means “Valley of the Deer” in Scottish Gaelic, that is the reason why there is a stag symbol on Glenfiddich bottles
Glenlivet – [glen-live] Gaelic Gleann Lìobhait is the glen or valley in the Scottish Highlands through which the River Livet flows. Lìobhait in Gaelic means “the smooth flowing one” referring to the river
Glenmorangie – [glen-mor-angie] is believed to derive from either Gaelic Gleann Mòr na Sìth “vale of tranquillity” or Gleann Mór-innse “vale of big meadows.
Macallan – [mac-allan] is most likely derived from two Gaelic words –Magh meaning “a fertile piece of ground” and Ellan, meaning “of St Fillan”, an Irish born monk who travelled widely in Scotland spreading Christianity during the eighth century
Oban – [o-ban] Oban is a small town on the western coastline of Scotland known as “the Gateway to the Isles” as it’s a port for those travelling to Scotland’s beautiful islands of the Outer Hebrides. The word Òban means “place by the little bay”
Lagavulin – [la-ga-voo-lin] Famous distillery located next to Ardbeg and Laphroaig. The name of Lagavulin is an anglicization of the Gaelic lag a’mhuilin, meaning “hollow by the mill”
Laphroaig – [la-froig] is an Islay single malt Scotch whisky distillery. It is named for the area of land at the head of Loch Laphroaig on the south coast of the Isle of Islay. Original Gaelic form Lag Bhròdhaig means “the hollow of Broadbay”