Glossary: H

Heads

Heads are part of the spirit that flows at beginning of a distillation run. Typically, they contain a high percentage of low boiling alcohols and other compounds such as aldehydes and ethyl acetate. 

For many spirits, heads are recognizable by their distinct astringent aroma (kind of solvent-like and not very pleasant). Some distillers will discard them, others recycle them for other purposes such as making hand sanitizer or antifreeze.

See Foreshots

Hogshead

A hogshead is a type of cask used to mature spirits – typically whisky. They are approximately 225-250 litres and after barrels (which are a bit smaller), hogsheads are the second-most common type of cask used in maturing Scotch. 

It’s generally thought that the larger size of hogsheads makes them better suited for longer period of maturation compared to standard barrels. This is due to the larger volume being favourable for the economics of dealing with the loss of spirit through evaporation (storage costs vs volume of fluid maturing).

Highball

Highballs are a type of simple cocktail consisting of a spirit and a carbonate. They are served in tall, ice-filled glassware (often also referred to as a Highball or Hi-ball glass). 

Highballs can be any spirit and any of a number of effervescent beverages – for example, Vodka Soda, Gin and Tonic, Rum and Coke – although, with the growing popularity of long refreshing whisky drinks, highballs are most commonly used as a shorthand in drinks industry jargon when referencing Whisky & Soda.

Hearts

Hearts are the desirable middle part of the distillate that flows from a still. They contain the ethanol distillers want to keep, imbued with the flavours and aromas that make each spirit unique.

Hearts come after the Heads and are collected when the distiller has decided that the quality of the incoming distillate is good enough to keep for drinking purposes and desirable for the flavour they want to capture. 

See Cuts.

Hors d’Age

A term relating to Cognac and literally translating to ‘beyond age’. The category’s regulatory body, the BNIC, states that Hors d’Age Cognac as being equal to XO but it is rarely used that way. In the industry, Hors d’Age  is more often used to signpost a very high-quality, very old product way beyond a standard XO (almost as if it’s beyond an official age rating).