We depend on water. Also for making whisky. Our bodies are made up of between 50 – 60% water. It is even higher in our brains, above 70% in fact. We are rather fortunate with the amounts of water we have and continually receive. It is indeed the inspiration for the name of the whisky; WATERPROOF.

It does rain a bit here and admittedly not all see it as a blessing, although it will not stop us talking about it. This means there are rather a lot of words describing different types of downpour.

Rain is simply the condensed moisture of the atmosphere falling in separate drops, though it does perhaps sometimes feel more like rods being tossed sideways. Please take a look below and perhaps discover more.


mizzle-like; dampness combined with the lightest of rain (East Anglian and Cambridge)


rain coming down hard in volumes – so much so that you are forced to stay indoors

Beating down

rain coming down hard and with sound


wind with brief rainfall (Scottish)


sudden and brief burst of cold icy rain (Scottish)


a speedy unpredictable passing shower (Shropshire and Wales)


to rain heavily - many languages have a version of “it is raining buckets” or “it is raining as if poured from a bucket”


cascades of rain, high volume of rain

Chucking it down

heavy persistent rain


Clarty is a way to describe a wet or sticky day with mud as a result.


a sudden heavy burst of rain, most often brief


a rain storm literally making cows quakes after they have come out to pasture – mainly in England in May.


a thin or gentle rain (Old Scottish)


an overwhelming or inundating flood of water from above


slow rain, as if it is almost refusing to follow gravity


heavy downpour that requires all over waterproofs to keep somewhat dry


bleak and grey weather with high moisture content (Doric – North East Scotland)


a gentle type of rain, almost bridging mist and light rain


slow rain, as if it is almost refusing to follow gravity


heavy downpour that requires all over waterproofs to keep somewhat dry


about the same as a drizzle; light rain (Scotland)


a brief shower of light snow


raining forks’tiyunsdown’ards is a strange word (or three pulled together) describing rain coming down like the tines on a hay fork, almost stinging-like (Lincolnshire)

Fox’s wedding

sudden drops of rain from a clear sky (Southwest England; Devon to Gloucestershire)

Cats and Dogs

this phrase is probably mostly used in overseas English-books, but there are equivalents around the world. Denmark; it is raining cobbler boys. Albanian; God is taking the p***, Dutch; it is raining kittens, French; it is raining like a peeing cow, German; it is raining young dogs, Romanian; raining frogs, Swedish; raining little devils, Welsh; raining old ladies and sticks…

Freezing rain

rain that becomes when coming in contact with a cold surface


sometimes known as snow pellets - snowflakes that have collected sub-cooled water droplets on its surface


copious amounts of rain possibly combined with wind


pellets of frozen rain most common in warmer weather

Hail stone

pellet of frozen rain common in warmer weather

Hail storm

a windy prolonged burst of hail


A quick thunderstorm from Danish word ‘hast’ meaning hurry (South East England)


heavy and intense rain in combination with wind – hitting hard like with a lash


Letty weather describes a medium amount of rain – enough to make it difficult to work outdoors (West Count


limited visibility due to a low hanging cloud (…of tiny water droplets suspended in the atmosphere at or near the ground)


heavy, often prolonged, rain. Although the word is adapted to the British Isles it originates from the seasonal Indian Ocean (and around) wind that bring in heavy rain


heavy, often prolonged, rain. Although the word is adapted to the British Isles it originates from the seasonal Indian Ocean (and around) wind that bring in heavy rain


light rain on a roof or window


rain coming down hard, almost violently


… or pissing/peeing down is not the most flattering Scottish term for jets of water from above


gentle rain named after the sound it makes


heavy rain coming straight down (Midlands and North East)


a medium to heavy rainfall


any result of condensation falling from above; snow, sleet, hail, rain


ehm, just normal rain really


either a shower of rain or the amount of rain fallen during a given period


really does what it says on the tin; a storm with heavy rain suggesting it does not arrive vertically


a short downpour


snow that has been demoted – or really, rain that freezes before reaching the ground


fine misty rain - the same as smyr though mainly Scotland


just short touch of rain


the same as smir though mainly England


that white fluffy stuff that appears instead of rain when the temperature is at or below freezing

Snow pellets

snowflakes that have collected sub-cooled water droplets on its surface – also known as graupel


more than enough water to make you wet


rain shower splashing on the ground


either a light rain or the rain is just beginning


like drizzle; a little rain in fine drops over a shorter period or/and over small area


a steady flow of quite a lot of rain


those sudden violent winds accompanied by rain


raining stair-rods – powerful rain arriving in rods rather than drops (South-east England)


when rain bounces back off the surface it hits (Scottish)

Sun shower

a rain shower while the sun is still shining – honestly, it does happen


short burst of rain accompanied by thunder (bolts and lightning..)


heavy tumultuous rain


Already in the 1400s mixing of gunpowder and alcohol was mentioned in the Nordics – alcohol allowed to bind and shape the dusty gun powder.

By the Mid-1500s gunpowder was used as a crude spirit measuring tool. Gunpowder soaked in strong whisky will ignite, whereas it will only fizz or not ignite at all if understrength. The term ‘proven’ and ‘proof’ became mainstay although the scale was rough – either it was proven… or not.

In 1816 the gunpowder test was officially abandoned in the UK for a new specific gravity test, that with the use of a hydrometer and thermometer could accurately read the strength of the whisky. This way of measuring is still in use, albeit from 1980 whisky is measured with the more logical Alcohol By Volume definition. Simply measuring the amount of alcohol in a bottle by percentage. If it states 40% alcohol – it means the rest is water (and approximately 0.1% are natural flavours).

The word ‘proof’ still exists on American labels. The measuring is not like the old complicated British way but in reality the same as the ABV…times two; i.e. 40% abv becomes 80 proof.

British Proof was much more complicated, but a simplified way to calculate the old British proof is times 7/4, i.e. 40% times 7 divided by 4… the result is 70 Proof.

This also means 100% pure alcohol equals 200 American Proof, but only 175 British Proof. Confused? That’s why we use ABV today.

But the hydrometer is still in use today at distilleries where it measures the alcohol content of the wash (or beer) before it is distilled. After distillation it is measured again and it aids the stillman finding the right cut points in order to select the heart (middle cut) of the spirit run.

We asked some retired customs & excise officers to describe their work with the proof and alcohol volume reading hydrometers. Although retired we have promised that they remain anonymous (the following names are made up – the stories are real).

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