WATER

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.

Bange

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

Barraging

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

Bleeter

wind with brief rainfall (Scottish)

Bluffart

sudden and brief burst of cold icy rain (Scottish)

Blunk

a speedy unpredictable passing shower (Shropshire and Wales)

Bucketing

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

Cascading

cascades of rain, high volume of rain

Chucking it down

heavy persistent rain

Clarty

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

Cloudburst

a sudden heavy burst of rain, most often brief

Cow-quaker

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

Dag

a thin or gentle rain (Old Scottish)

Deluge

an overwhelming or inundating flood of water from above

Dibble

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

Drencher

heavy downpour that requires all over waterproofs to keep somewhat dry

Dreich

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

Drizzle

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

Drookit

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

Fall

heavy downpour that requires all over waterproofs to keep somewhat dry

Fiss

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

Flurry

a brief shower of light snow

Forks’tiyunsdown’ards

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

Graupel

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

Gushing

copious amounts of rain possibly combined with wind

Hail

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

Haster

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

Lashing

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

Letty

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

Mist

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

Mizzle

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

Monsoon

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

Patter

light rain on a roof or window

Pelting

rain coming down hard, almost violently

Pishing

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

Pitter-Patter

gentle rain named after the sound it makes

Plothering

heavy rain coming straight down (Midlands and North East)

Pour

a medium to heavy rainfall

Precipitation

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

Rain

ehm, just normal rain really

Rainfall

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

Rainstorm

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

Shower

a short downpour

Sleet

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

Smir

fine misty rain - the same as smyr though mainly Scotland

Smither

just short touch of rain

Smyr

the same as smir though mainly England

Snow

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

Soaker

more than enough water to make you wet

Spatter

rain shower splashing on the ground

Spitting

either a light rain or the rain is just beginning

Sprinkle

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

Stream

a steady flow of quite a lot of rain

Squall

those sudden violent winds accompanied by rain

Stair-rods

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

Stotting

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

Thundershower

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

Torrent

heavy tumultuous rain

WHY PROOF?

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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