How Good is Your Bourbonspeak?

December 6, 2022
How Good is Your Bourbonspeak?

In the world of bourbon there are a number of colloquialisms, idioms, jargon and slang that have evolved throughout the years.  These words can at times not only be a bit overwhelming, but a bit frustrating as they have no firmly rooted definition that you can turn to in the dictionary.  In the most classic sense of a sign of the times, "IYKYK" seems a fitting descriptor, or for those who like me have zero clue what all these letters are mashed together, "if you know, you know."  For those who base their center of gravity on all thing's bourbon, the lingo or "bourbonspeak" is second nature.  Below we unpackage ten of the most common terms used in bourbon culture and ask, "how good is your bourbonspeak?"  Read all the way through to see how you score!


These are old bottles of bourbon that have been sitting around, perhaps in Grandpas cabinet from before he gave up the brownwater, or old stock that never sold from a liquor store that's been sitting in their basement storage for the past twenty years in some dark corner.  Usually covered in a thin layer of dust, these old "dusties" are becoming more and more popular on the market among a subset of collectors.  Some of these bottles may fetch hundreds, or thousands of dollars all depending on condition, rarity and brand.


What's become somewhat of a dirty term in some circles, a flipper is someone who acquires bourbon bottles for the sole purpose of re-selling them for profit.    


Sometimes you may hear someone call a bottle of bourbon a "hazmat bottle."  Rest assured, these bottles have not been exposed to some level of nuclear radiation and are in fact, completely safe to drink.  Hazmat is a term used to signify that the bottle is above 140 proof.  Not many bourbons reach what my friends and I reference as "jet A" status, but high-octane bottlings include such things as George T. Stagg and Jack Daniels Coy Hill (though alcohol by volume varies on either side of the hazmat line).  Interestingly, hazmat bourbon is illegal to fly with given the proof point, just one of a number of Fun Bourbon Facts to Impress Your Friends.


Although this term may have you picturing that heated blind you shot ducks from or that time you went out and sat in a stand all day and saw nothing but some squirrels, the term hunt has its own bourbon-related meaning.  When I started into bourbon, "back in the day" I used to go on the hunt or as I referred to it at the time as going out on a "grail quest" looking for hard to find bottles that I knew should be dropping to stores in my area at some point.  There are a LOT of hunters at any liquor store these days, so do the folks working a favor and stop asking "do you have any Blantons?"  


The Infinity bottle is an interesting way to curate a unique to you bottle of bourbon through assimilating the last pour or last drops out of bottles you've drank and combining into a single bottle that gets added to from time-to-time.  If you want to learn more, take four minutes to do a deep dive in our recent post on Infinity Bottles.


This should be an easy one as it's just referring to the beautiful brownwater inside of the glass.  It is used synonymously with "bourbon" or "whiskey."  


The Secondary Bourbon Market or simply the "secondary" is the black market of bourbon buying and selling.  Here coveted bottles of brownwater that never make it to the store shelves are put up for sale with a hefty markup in some cases.  Take a peek behind the curtain to see what bottles are going for on the Bourbon Blue Book.


No, we're not talking about spuds, but rather an individual who in a number of ways epitomizes the current hyped up bourbon culture.  These are the folks who run out to the local liquor store when a particular bottling seems to be getting some press and buys up a case or everything the store has in hopes of re-selling it.  This isn't the only "tater" move out there, but you'll know who's the tater and who's not pretty easily.  


If you've spent any time reading the Bourboneur blog, you've certainly heard me use this term, perhaps in our recent 2022 Unicorn Edition.  This term refers to highly allocated, very rare bottles that few find their hands on.  These are sought after, limited and many times insanely priced bottles of bourbon, but the term "unicorn" can be used for all variety of spirits when describing availability.


The wild is another term used to reference a liquor store.  When one finds a rare bottle, and it does happen, some might say I was on the hunt and I scored a unicorn out in the wild!  Absent any qualifying detail, you may wonder what your buddy was drinking and how much he had while he was out "hunting," but alas, this is just shorthand bourbonspeak.

Bourbonspeak Rating

How many bourbon terms did you know?  

Click on your rating to see how you compare to everyone else!

  • Tater in Training
  • Bourbon Enthusiast
  • Bourbon Aficionado
  • Bourboneur

If You Know, You Know...

Each week we post up new content that explores the ever-changing world of bourbon, bringing fresh perspectives and the latest updates on all things brownwater.  Make sure to navigate to our main blog page and sign up for our free weekly newsletter so you don't miss a beat.  I'd suggest you become a Bourboneur and join us on Instagram, Facebook, and yes, even TikTok.


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