Many of the names of Scotland’s distilleries are not based on English, but on the native tongue of Gaelic. It’s a beautiful language, but…shall we say, a bit hard to pronounce.
This page is derived from years of work by Jeroen Kloppenburg and contributors to his peatfreak.com site. Jeroen closed down the site in the spring of 2009, and was looking for a home for some of his content. We agreed to give it a home here on WhiskyCast.com to keep the project alive.

The pagoda at Knockdhu Distillery near Huntly, Scotland.

The pagoda at Knockdhu Distillery near Huntly, Scotland.

Here’s how he explained some of the ways distillery names have evolved:

“At times it is stunning to see how a name is rooted in the past and evolved over time. Who would at first would think that Ladybank has a Gaelic source? Over time, Leathad-bog (Boggy Slope) has been anglicized to the very English sounding version of Ladybank. This example clearly shows what the influences are from other languages such as English, Norse, Pictish and Brythonic, and their role in the names we can find back today on our beloved single malts. Where possible, I will include the original language the word stems from.

This anglicization leads to possible problems as well. Some names (like Ladybank) are so heavily transformed that its original source is hard to find. This can lead to differences in the pronunciation for example. The locals are using the original pronunciation, where people outside the area are using the Gaelic pronunciation (emphasis on second syllable for example). There are distillery names that are pronounced the Gaelic way in the whisky industry (and thus, also by us consumers), but have an entirely different pronunciation locally.

Secondly it might make translating the name to English very hard. For several distillery names there are several possible translations available. Not unusually, alternative translations are provided by marketing departments of distilleries, causing confusion. One case even led to a Gaelic speaker filing a complaint at the Scottish authority! (see Glenmorangie).

As less and less people speak Gaelic on a day to day basis these problems will only strengthen in the future. Reality is that several ways of pronunciation and translation of several distillery names does indeed exist.”

The distillery and place names are listed here as they were on Jeroen’s original site, with one exception. Where a distillery was originally listed as two words (as in the case of Glen Ury), but the current distillery branding uses one word, I have changed the listing to use the current preference.

ABERFELDY aberFELdy “The confluence of Palladius or Paldoc” Aber (Brythonic-Pictish – confluence or river mouth) Phellaidh (Old Gaelic – St. Paldoc, Christian missionary).
ABERLOUR aberLOUR “Loud Confluence” Aber (Brythonic-Pictish – confluence or river mouth) labhar(Gaelic – loud).
ALLT A BHAINNE altà VANJA “Burn of Milk” This area was used to milk cattle.
ARDBEG ardBEG “Small Height” Ard (Scottish Gaelic – high) beag (Scottish Gaelic small).
ARDMORE ardMORE “Big Height” Ard (Scottish Gaelic – high) mór (Scottish Gaelic – big).
ARRAN ARran “Place of Peaked Hills” Aran (Brythonic – peaked hill), very early Gaelic name, and the translation is not sure.
AUCHENTOSHAN OCHun-TOShun “Corner of the field” The CH in the pronunciation guide is pronounced as the CH in loch.
AULTMORE aultMORE “Big Stream” Allt (Scottish Gaelic – stream) mór (Scottish Gaelic – big).
BALBLAIR balBLAIR “The Farm on the Moor” Baile (farm) a’ Bhlàir (flat land, or moorland).
BALMENACH balMEAHRnach “The Middle Farm” Am Baile Meadhanach.
BALVENIE balVEnie “Beathan’s farm” Baile (farm) Bhainidh or Both Bhainidh. Named after 11th century bishop of Mortlach.
BANFF bamph Banbh is a poetic name for Ireland who were used commemoratively to several placenames over Scotland.
BENRIACH ben RIach “Speckled Mountain”
BENRINNES ben RINnes “Promontory Hill” Beinn (Scottish Gaelic – mountain) roinn (Scottish Gaelic – promontory).
BENROMACH ben ROmach “Shaggy Mountain”
BLACKWOOD blackwood Caroline Whitfield, the founder of this Shetland distillery, named it after her husband.
BLADNOCH BLADnoch Old Gaelic name of a river which the meaning is unknown of.
BLAIR ATHOLL blair ATHol “Plain of the new Ireland” Blar (Scottish Gaelic – plain) ath (Scottish Gaelic – next or second) Fhodla (Old Gaelic – Irish goddess Fodla, also old name for Ireland).
BOWMORE bowMORE “Big Hut” Both (Scotish Gaelic – hut or house) mór (Scottish Gaelic – big).
BRACKLA BRACKlach “Speckled Hillslope” by some sources, and “The Badger’s Sett” A’ Bhraclaich by others. Often also referred to as ‘Royal Brackla’ by appointment of King William IV who was fond of this malt.
BRORA BROra “The bridges river” Bru’r (Old Norse – bridge) aa (Old Norse – river).
BRUICHLADDICH BROOìch-LADDich Also: BROOKladDEE. “The Bank of the Shore” Bruach (bank) a’ Chladaich(shore). The second pronunciation is used locally in dialect, and might have a Norse background.
BUNNAHABHAIN boonaHAAven “Foot of the River” Bonn (Scottish Gaelic – bottom) abhainn (Scottish Gaelic – stream or river).
CAOL ILA COOL-eelah “Sound of Islay” Caol (Scottish Gaelic – sound) Ila stands for Islay (Anglicized), which might come from the personal name ile, which in mythology is a Danish princess who came from Ireland to Islay. During her crossing over the sea stones magically appeared for her to place her feet on. More information on ile can be found at the Islay entry.
CAPERDONICH kapperDOHnich  Is named after the “Secret Well” it uses for its water.
CARDHU kahrDOO “Black Rock” Creag (Scottish Gaelic – rock) dubh (Scottish Gaelic – black)
CLYNELISH cleinLISH “Sloped Garden” Claon (Scottish Gaelic – sloped) lios (Scottish Gaelic – garden).
COLEBURN coleburn The area around this burn has probably been used to make charcoal.
CONVALMORE convalMORE Named after the Conval hills located just north of Dufftown.
CRAGGANMORE kragganMORE “The Big Rock” An Creagan (Scottish Gaelic – rock) mór (Scottish Gaelic – big)
CRAIGHELLACHIE krayKHELlachie “Rock of the Stoney Place” Creag (Scottish Gaelic – rock) ealeachaidh (Scottish Gaelic – stony).
DAILUAINE dal-HOOànjeh “The Green Meadow” An Dail Uaine. In the pronunciation the OO is pronounced like the oo in cool.
DALLAS DHU dallas DHU “Field by the Black Waterfall” Dail (Scottish Gaelic – field) eas (Scottish Gaelic – waterfall) dubh (Scottish Gaelic – black).
DALMORE dalMORE “The Big Field” Dail (Scottish Gaelic – field) mór (Scottish Gaelic – big).
DALWHINNIE dalWHINnie “Field of the Champion” Dail (Scottish Gaelic – field) cuingid (Scottish Gaelic – champion). In the pronunciation, make sure the H sounds gets pronounced well.
DEANSTON deanston “The Hill (fort)”, An Dùn. Other sources translate it as “Dean’s farm”.
DUFFTOWN DUFton Town named after James Duff who founded it. Duff comes from dubh (Scottish Gaelic – black).
DUMBARTON dumBARton “Stronghold of the Britons” Dùn (Scottish Gaelic – fortified stronghold) breatainn(Scottish Gaelic – britons).
EDRADOUR edraDAUWer “Between Two Waters” Eadar (Scottish Gaelic – between) da (Scottish Gaelic – two) dhobhar (Brythonic Scottish Gaelic – waters).
FETTERCAIRN fetter-CAIRN “Wooded Slope” Faither (Scottish Gaelic – terraced slope or gradient) cardden(Brythonic Celtic – wood or copse).
GLEN ALBYN glen ALbin “Glen Alba” Glen (Anglicised Scottish Gaelic word for gleann, river valley in mountain or hill country) Alba (old name for Scotland).
GLEN ALLACHIE glen ALLachie “The glen at the Rocky Place” Glen (Anglicised Scottish Gaelic word for gleann, river valley in mountain or hill country) Aileachaidh. Note again that the ch is pronounced like the ch in loch.
GLEN BURGIE glen BURgie “Glen of the Fort” Glen (Anglicised Scottish Gaelic word for gleann, river valley in mountain or hill country) borg (Norse – fort).
GLEN CADAM glen KAdam Glen (Anglicised Scottish Gaelic word for gleann, river valley in mountain or hill country). Cadam is the name of a house with unknown meaning.
GLEN DEVERON glen DEAFeron “Glen of the Black Earn” Glen (Anglicised Scottish Gaelic word for gleann, river valley in mountain or hill country) Originally called Eron possibly from Erin (Old Irish). dubh (Scottish Gaelic – dark) added later.
GLEN CRAIG glen KRAIG “Glen of the Rock”Glen (Anglicised Scottish Gaelic word for gleann, river valley in mountain or hill country) creag (Scottish Gaelic – rock)
GLENDULLAN glen DULLan Glen: river valley, and Dullan means standing rock or stone, perhaps a cairn.
GLENDRONACH glen DRONach “Valley of the Blackberries”
GLEN ELGIN glen ELgin “Glen Little Ireland” Glen (Anglicised Scottish Gaelic word for gleann, river valley in mountain or hill country) ealg (Scottish Gaelic – old name for Ireland) in(Scottish Gaelic suffix for ‘litte’).
GLEN ESK glen ESK “Glen of the Water” Glen (Anglicised Scottish Gaelic word for gleann, river valley in mountain or hill country) uisge (Scottish Gaelic – water).e (Scottish Gaelic – water).
GLENFARCLAS glen FÀRclass “Valley of the Green Grass”
GLENFIDDICH glen FIDdich “Fid’s Glen” Glen (Anglicised Scottish Gaelic word for gleann, river valley in mountain or hill country) Fidach is a old Pictish province name. Fid is most likely a first name. “The Glen of the Deer” is more a marketing tool :). Note that again the ending ch is pronounced as in the word loch, and not as a hard k sound.
GLEN GARIOCH glen GEERie “Glen of the Rough Ground” Glen (Anglicised Scottish Gaelic word for gleann, river valley in mountain or hill country) Garbh (Scottish Gaelic – roughness) ach(Scottish Gaelic – field or place).
GLENGLASSAUGH glen GLASSòch “Glen of the Grey-green Place” Glen (Anglicised Scottish Gaelic word for gleann, river valley in mountain or hill country) Glasach.
GLENGOYNE glen GOYNE “Glen of the Wild Geese” Glen (Anglicised Scottish Gaelic word for gleann, river valley in mountain or hill country)
GLEN GRANT glen grant “Grant’s glen” Glen (Scottish Gaelic – glen), Grant is the family name of the founder of the distillery.
GLEN KEITH glen keith Glen (Anglicised Scottish Gaelic word for gleann, river valley in mountain or hill country), Keith is unclear. It might come from cait (pictish – a personal name), but also coit (Brythonic and Old Gaelic – wood) is said to be the source.
GLENKINCHIE glen KINsee Glen (Anglicised Scottish Gaelic word for gleann, river valley in mountain or hill country), kinchie comes from ‘de Quincey’ who were landowners of this place. That also explains why the ‘ch’ is not pronounced as you would expect in Gaelic as the ch in ‘loch’.
GLENLIVET glenLIFfit “Glen of the Smooth Place” Glen (Anglicised Scottish Gaelic word for gleann, river valley in mountain or hill country) liobh (Scottish Gaelic – slippery/smooth) ait(Scottish Gaelic – place).
GLEN LOCHY glenLOCHee “Glen of the Lossie” Glen (Anglicised Scottish Gaelic word for gleann, river valley in mountain or hill country), lossie is more unclear. It is said the name comes from Loxa, meaning croock in Greek. Also lus (Scottish Gaelic – herbs or plants) is suggested.
GLEN LOSSIE glen LOSSee “Glen of the Lossie” Glen (Anglicised Scottish Gaelic word for gleann, river valley in mountain or hill country), lossie is more unclear. It is said the name comes from Loxa, meaning croock in Greek. Also lus (Scottish Gaelic – herbs or plants) is suggested
GLEN MHOR glen VHOR “The Great Glen” Glen (Anglicised Scottish Gaelic word for gleann, river valley in mountain or hill country) mór (Scottish Gaelic – big)
GLENMORANGIE glenMÒRANgee “Glen of the Big Meadows” Glen (Anglicised Scottish Gaelic word for gleann, river valley in mountain or hill country) mór (Scottish Gaelic – big) innse (Scottish Gaelic – water meadows). “The Glen Of Tranquillity” has more to do with marketing then a proper translation ;) In 2003 a Gaelic speaker filed a complaint at the Scottish authority on the subject of marketing about the wrong translation. Glenmorangie then said the translation comes from Gleann mor na sith which translates as ‘big glen of peace’ or ‘glen of tranquillity’.
GLEN MORAY glen MORray “Glen Sea Settlement” Glen (Anglicised Scottish Gaelic word for gleann, river valley in mountain or hill country) mori (old Gaelic name).
GLEN ORD glen ord “Glen of the Rounded hill” Glen (Anglicised Scottish Gaelic word for gleann, river valley in mountain or hill country) t-Òrd, “The rounded hill”.
GLENROTHES glen ROTtus Glen (Anglicised Scottish Gaelic word for gleann, river valley in mountain or hill country) Modern name, Rothes was the family name of the earls who owned the land. Rathes is also Scottish Gaelic for ring-fort. In other words, another where it is not sure where the name originates from.
GLEN SCOTIA glen SCOsha “Glen of the Scots” Glen (Anglicised Scottish Gaelic word for gleann, river valley in mountain or hill country) scoti is the original name for the immigrants who came from Northern Ireland.
GLEN SPEY glen spey Exact translation of spey is not known. Spiathan (old Scottish Gaelic – thorn) andyspyddad (Brythonic – hawthorn), and also squeas (pre Celtic – vomit or gush) with the -an ending has been suggested.
GLENTURRET glen THURret “Glen of the Little Dry Stream” Tur (Scottish Gaelic – dry) that suffix indicating small. Meaning the stream dries up in summer.
GLEN UGIE glen UGEE “Glen of the ugie” Glen (Anglicised Scottish Gaelic word for gleann, river valley in mountain or hill country) ugeach (Scottish Gaelic – nook or hollow).
GLENURY glen URee Glen (Anglicised Scottish Gaelic word for gleann, river valley in mountain or hill country) , Ury is the name of the district.
GLEN WYVIS glen WYvis “Glen of the Rock”Glen (Anglicised Scottish Gaelic word for gleann, river valley in mountain or hill country) creag (Scottish Gaelic – rock).
GLEN DRONACH glen DRONach “Valley of the Blackberries”
GLEN ELGIN glen ELgin Glen (Anglicised Scottish Gaelic word for gleann, river valley in mountain or hill country) uais (Scottish Gaelic – noble or majestic).
HIGHLAND PARK highland park Name is most likely chosen by the original owner to give the consumers a feeling of what the whisky would taste like, and put them in the corner of “highland whiskies”. Update: According to the distillery, “Highland” refers to the location of the distillery in the hills above Kirkwall, and “Park” was the Orcadian term for farmland.
INCHMURRIN inchMÙRrin “Island of St. Mirin” Innis (Scottish Gaelic – island) mirin (personal name from 7th century Irish abbot).
ISLAY EYElà “Ile’s Island” Ile (personal name) ey (Old Norse – island). If the name is Gaelic from origina it may be “flank shaped”. The pronunciation shows how most Scots would pronounce the name, on the island itself EElah is more common.
Another possible translation is that Ile has been Anglicized to Islay, and comes from the personal name ile, which in mythology is a Danish princess who came from Ireland to Islay. During her crossing over the sea stones magically appeared for her to place her feet on.
JURA jura “Doirad’s Island” Doirad (Norse personal name, meaning deer) ey (Old Norse – island).
KININVIEW kinINview “The End of the Fair Plain”, Ceann Fhinn Mhuighe.
KNOCHDHU nockDOO “Black Hill” Cnoc (Scottish Gaelic – hill) dubh (Scottish Gaelic – black)
LADYBANK ladybank “Boggy Slope” Leathad (Scottish Gaelic – slope) bog (Scottish Gaelic – moist). Name has been anglicized to Lady.
LAGAVULIN lagaVOOlin “Hollow by the Mill” Lag (Scottish Gaelic – hollow) a’mhuilinn (Scottish Gaelic – by the mill).
LAPHROAIG laFROIG “Hollow by the Big Bay” Lag (Scottish Gaelic – hollow) a’mhor (Scottish Gaelic – by the big) aig (Scottish Gaelic – bay).
LEDAIG LEADaig “The Small Slope” An Leadag. Other sources translate it as having a Norse origin meaning “A bay which is difficult to enter”.
LOCH LOMOND loch LOmond On this name the historians are not entirely sure. It could be lumond (Brythonic – beacon) referring to Ben Lomond, another source might be leamham (Scottish Gaelic – elm).
ROYAL LOCHNAGAR LOCHnagár “Loch of the Noise or Laughter” Loch (Scottish Gaelic – loch) na (Scottish Gaelic – of the) (Scottish Gaelic – slope) gaire (Scottish Gaelic – noise or laughter). The ‘Royal’ is by appointment of Queen Victoria.
LONGMORN LONGmorn “Morgan’s Church or Field” Lann (Scottish Gaelic – field or church field) Morgan(Brythonic personal name of a saint).
MACALLAN macALan “Fillan’s Plain”, Magh Fhaolain. Occasionally also translated to “property of the son of Allan.” Mac means “son of”.
MANNOCHMORE manNOCHmore “The Place of the Monks” Mannoch (Scottish Gaelic – big) mór (Scottish Gaelic – big).
MILLBURN MILLburn “The Stream of the Mill” Allt (Scottish Gaelic – stream) a’Mhuilinn Allt (Scottish Gaelic – mill).
MILTONDUFF milltonDUFF “Duff’s Millton” Milton means a farm or village with a mill. Duff is a personal name.
MORTLACH mòrtLACH “Big Hill” Mór (Scottish Gaelic – big) ulach (Scottish Gaelic – hill).
OBAN ooBAN “Little Bay” Ob (Scottish Gaelic from Old Norse “hop” which means bay or inlet)an (Scottish Gaelic – little).
PITTYVAICH PITTYvaáich “The Farm with the Byre” Peit/Baile a’ Bhàthaich (Pictish Gaelic)
PORT ELLEN port ellen Lady Ellenor was the wife of the founder of the town, W.F. Campbell.
PULTENEY PULT’ney Named after one of the developers of the place the distillery is built.
ROSEBANK rosebank The English name refers to a bank of roses, “Kenneth’s secluded spot”, Cùil Choinnich is another possible translation in Gaelic.
ST. MAGDALENE st MÁGdelain The area this distillery was located is known as St. Magdalene’s Cross.
SCAPA scàppà “Boat” Skalp (Old Norse – boat).
SPEY spey Exact translation is not known. Spiathan (old Scottish Gaelic – thorn) andyspyddad  (Brythonic – hawthorn), and also squeas (pre Celtic – vomit or gush) with the -an ending has been suggested.
SPEYBURN spey burn See above
SPEYSIDE spey side See above
SPRINGBANK springbank Name comes probably simply from the fact that there is a spring on a bank…
STRATHISLA strathEYEla “The Valley of the River Isla” Strath (Scottish Gaelic – broad river valley), Isla is the river that flows here.
STRATHMILL strathMILL Strath (Scottish Gaelic – broad river valley), the distillery used to be a mill.
TALISKER TALisker “Sloping Rock” T-hallr (Old Norse – sloping) skjaer (Old Norse – rock).
TAMDHU thamDOO “Black hill” Tom (Scottish Gaelic – hill) dubh (Scottish Gaelic – black).
TAMNAVULIN tamnaVOOLIN “Mill on the Hill” Tom (Scottish Gaelic – hill) a’mhuilinn (Scottish Gaelic – by the mill)
TEANINICH thaiNINich “The House on the Moor” Taigh (Scottish Gaelic – house) an Aonaich (Scottish Gaelic – large area or moorland).
TOBERMORY toberMOREee “Mary’s Well” Tobar (Scottish Gaelic – well) Moire (Scottish Gaelic – Mary).
TOMATIN tomàTIN “Juniper Hill” Tom (Scottish Gaelic – hill) aitionn (Scottish Gaelic – juniper).
TOMINTOUL tominTOWEL “Little Hill of the Barn” Tom (Scottish Gaelic – hill) an t-sabhail (Scottish Gaelic – of the barn).
TORMORE torMORE “High Hill” Torr (Scottish Gaelic – mound or hill) mór (Scottish Gaelic – big)
TULLIBARDINE tulliBÁRdine “Hill of Warning” Tullach (Scottish Gaelic – hill slope) bardainn (Scottish Gaelic – warning).