How much is a dram of Scotch?

Dram of ArdbergIf you do any reading about Scotch, or whiskey in general, you’ll often read people talk about having a dram of Scotch. Intuitively we know it’s some measurement, that we pour a bit of the golden (or amber or whatever, depending what you prefer!) elixir, call it a dram, and go about our merry way enjoying it.

But, what exactly is a dram?

Historically, a dram was a coin, a unit of mass, and a unit of volume.

For volume, it’s an eighth (1⁄8) of a fluid ounce.

If you’re using a speed pourer, like they have in bars, you get about an ounce and a half in three seconds. For a dram, that’s a pour of a quarter of a second. If you think of it in those terms, it’s really not that much. (please don’t use a speed pourer on your scotch!)

For all practical purposes, a dram just means “a wee bit” when you talk about Scotch. No one is holding a measuring spoon when they measure out their drams!

Need a vessel to hold that dram? Here are our selections for the best glass for Scotch.

(Photo: stephangeyer)

88 thoughts on “How much is a dram of Scotch?

  1. But in practice, nobody drinks that small of a glass. A normal pour in the UK is 1.25 imperial fluid ounces, so by definition, 10 drams. When you’re at home, you pour whatever you’re comfortable with. I think mine are typically 1.5 to 2.0 imperial fluid ounces.

  2. So, I will presume you are familiar with a Scotch tasting. How much is typically poured in a nosing glass at a tasting?

  3. …I always wondered whether I was over- or under-measuring my wee drams, bearing in mind that I live in Ireland where fractions of a Gill are the accepted measure (or at least they were, when I did bar work as a student).

    So now I know that my drams are just that: MY drams.

    Which leads on to my other long time question: how much water should I add? My favourite whiskies are Laphroaig; Lagavulin; and Caol Ila (in that order), although I can also be tempted by the (4?) other Islay malts, and I like a 50:50 malt:water mix, which I achieve either by eye or with a small measure – whatever is to hand – a shot glass, for instance.

    I’m not really a fan of other Scotches, although I admit that once I tasted the peaty/smoky Laphroaig I didn’t look much further!



    • Me too! In that order: Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Caol Ila. I am planning a trip to Islay at the end of May and will be in Port Ellen for their annual Islay Fest. Can’t wait to visit those distilleries and take the tours.
      P.S. – On the other scotchs – my wife ordered a bottle of 25 year Macallan for me for our Anniversary last year ($775). Wow, what a scotch! I will need to make that bottle last my lifetime, though!

      • wow, $775 for a 25 yr…I know it’s been 4 years since this post and I don’t know where you are but here in California today 2018 the going price for this is about $1600. tax free?

      • While I also enjoy the peaty Smokey flavors of some of the Islay whiskeys, I also very much enjoy scotches from many other areas. I understand why Islay whiskey has become so popular but there are so many other great scotches out there. I recently got to taste a 1971 Glenmorangie among some other scotches. It can be a very expensive hobby but also very rewarding. There’s so much out there to be tasted so all I would say is keep exploring.

  4. Good Day Joe,
    I am Rod McIntyre in Boulder Colorado and I have been enjoying fine scotch for many years. I prefer Macallan and have had the pleasure to try most others including your favorites. A very good friend of mine once ask me how I drank my scotch and I told him straight up. He suggested that I put in one single ice cube in to open the the flavors of the scotch and by God it sure did and also gave it a nice little chill which was perfect for me. Thought I might just pass that on for your review.
    Continue to enjoy the great spirit of scotch and I will toast to you in Ireland.

    • Rod,
      I live in Baltimore, but a couple years ago I visited a friend in Denver. We went to Boulder for the weekend and I discovered Johnny’s Cigar Bar on 13th Street. They have a great scotch collection! Denver also – Pints Pub on West 13th Avenue.

      • Pints Pub!
        They introduced me to Scotch! Wonderful people, legitimate pub in the middle of Colorado, and amazing introduction of smoky single malts.. Quarter Cask Laphroaig; Lagavulin, and many others.

        Have also had success with a single cube of ice. just enough. Hoping to visit Islay soon. Best regards to all, hope to see you there.

    • Thanks for the input on ice cube. I am NEW to Scotch Wiskey… Had never tried a single malt… Mmmm OH my good stuff. Don’t ever want to go back to blended anything!

      • Well, in actuality, water would open the flavors, the chill shuts some down, so…. a few drops of water is what you would want, not ice.

  5. So technically a dram of Scotch is a sip.

    I drink my Scotch straight up as well but I prefer to add a little bit of water to open up the flavor. Ice tends to dull the nose and flavor of the Scotch. But to each his own.

    I drink The MaCallan 12 and Glenfiddich 18.


  6. Having lived in Scotland (Edinburgh) for a year, I was told, “a dram is a measure of Scotch determined only by the generosity of the pourer”… which is exactly the way it seems to work out in reality!

  7. For about thirty years I wouldn’t touch alcohol. But in a restuarant hanging over the Roaring Forks River in Glenwood Springs, CO, my wife ordered the house whisky. I picked up her glass to see what it smells like…!!! Do I like the smell of The Glenlivit! To me a dram is that little bit I pour in a snifter, and it lasts for hours. I would love to experience 25, but 12 is still wonderful for an evening. My dram is probable about 1/2 an ounce.

    • This restaurant had The Glenlivet (probably the 12 year old) in the well? The best scotch I ever tasted was a Glenfiddich single malt 22 year old. I do not like adding either ice or water as those dilute the experience. Back in the old days, folks would gather stream-chilled stones (not too big, not too small, just right – had to fit in a glass you know) and pour their whisk(e)y over those. Why added ice is called ‘on the rocks’. Here in the states Kentucky Bourbon is big. Many of those distilleries now sell stones for chilling purposes. I keep mine in the freezer. However, I prefer my nightly dram neat at room temperature.

  8. Dram it! Don’t ya hate being disillusioned by a “special” sounding word. To me it always sounded like a decently sized glass with which you could get your nose in and enjoy the fragrance and taste, unfortunately it is a tiny unit of measure. So sorry all ya wee bonnie lasses but a “wee dram” would be a small small bit, and no educated person talks thus. I digress (and digest) for why drink it by the dram when you can drink it by the tun.

  9. A Dram in Scotland can be the following: When you say, “Can I have a dram?” 1. If at a pub you can expect a basic shot of whisky. 2. If you’re at a neighbor’s or friend, you can expect a portion that they feel is of their generosity. So a dram, although may have some technical history or even a traditional history – A Dram of Whisky is shot. The amount of that ‘shot’ is determined by the owner of the whisky. A “wee dram” is usually just the beginning of a Tall one. Had you not a drink earlier, a wee dram is to get your windpipe ready for the taste of a good drink. Be sure it is real Scotch Whisky – Single Malt – and never spelled with an ‘e’ in Whisky. Otherwise it can’t be from Scotland.

  10. A dram is exactly 3.696716 cubic centimeters (centimetres) which is exactly 3.696716 milliliters (millilitres) (same), 0.1250008 of an ounce (oz), 0.1301062 of an ounce (oz UK), 0.003906276 of a quart, 0.007812553 of a pint, 0.006505314 of a pint (UK), 0.2500018 of a tablespoon, 0.750005 of a teaspoon.

    I had this program called “Convert” on my computer the whole time and only just decided to look for dram under “volume” and sure enough there it was.

    3/4 of a teaspoon wouldn’t really impress someone or quench a thirst so maybe we should just have a glass of scotch?

    “They speak of my drinking, but never think of my thirst” ~ Scottish proverb.

    • You cannot convert liquid volume to mass (weight) as mass is a function of specific gravity. Having said that, the SG probably doesn’t vary much between whisky’s so it is likely near enough.

  11. A dram is just what you want it to be. It’s referred to as “a wee bit” so that when you said you were having a dram of whiskey it made it not sound like you just drank a lot of whiskey. it’s all in how you spin it! And I’ll drink to that! A dram of course.

  12. I’ve tried all of the afore mentioned spirits, but through the generosity of a lovely lass of a wife, I’ve also had the opportunity to sample the 30 year old glenfiddich, am saving the 40 year old glenlivet for an extra special occasion.

  13. There are so many great scotches out their! Laphroig is a top favorite, I used to buy a 30yo bottle of Glenfiddich each year and sip on it and finish it off New Years Eve. Such a smooth finish to a mature scotch!

  14. I have tried the young 10 yr old Laphroig, the mature 15 yr old, and the 30 yr old. I think the 30 has traded too much character for the smooth finish, but it is still grand. Of course, the 10 is much too raw, but the 15 is simply glorious. Good balance of character and finish. Good complex nose and tongue, a great value. 2-3 drops of water, just to open it up, not enough to water it down.

  15. I drink about 2 ozs a dram. My all-time favorite is bunnahabhain 12. I am more of a sherry head. Macallan 12, Mac 10 fine oak, of course Mac 18. I even pour a little Mac 18 into a Mac 12 bottle, ala Ralfy, and it really does seem to turn the whole bottle into something more like a lively 18. Why my favorite, bunnahabhain 12 is also so amazing is that it is uncolored, non-chill filtered, and at 46.3%, so that when you add a little water to open it up, it still has some punch. Something hard to achieve when your only at 40%. You just can’t open a scotch like that up and have it still be enjoyable.

  16. An Irish measure is 1/4 gill (35ml); an English measure, which barely wets the glass is 1/6 gill (25ml). The Irish measure also called a “half ‘un” meant a glass was 70 ml and thus a 10 glass bottle contains 700ml.

  17. A great article, but what a disappointment and shock in an article about Scotch to see, in the very first sentence, whisky spelled “whiskey.” That nearly made my kilt fall off!
    Whiskey is that stuff made in America. The real deal is whisky.
    And now you know!!

    • Whiskey is the stuff made anywhere outside of Scotland, so I used the spelling with an E since whisky is covered by Scotch. πŸ™‚

        • A facebook friend recommended Laphroaigs, and so I came here for a tutorial on drinking Scotch. Good to know about the “2 or 3 drops of water.” I think Bond has it on the rocks, right?
          I am a Bourbon drinker. Bourbon is neither whiskey nor whisky lol, but Bourbon. I drink it only neat, room temperature, never do shots, but at 90 proof + I sip it mouth closed so it doesn’t volatize on the way down. Prevents that throat burn and gasping for air. I used to love Elijah Craig 12, when they had it. Currently Russell Reserve 10 yo is my favorite, still looking. I typically sip a shot and a half in a sitting.

  18. I typically fill the cap of a Johnnie Walker bottle for my dram. I’m young and new to drinking but Scotch (and Brandy) has really grabbed my attention and peaked my intrest with it’s rich flavor. Hopefully I learn a thing or two on this site. Hail to Thee! and Happy drinking from Minnesota!

    • I highly recommend you move to the single malts. I personally do not like Johnnie Walker or most blends. I would recommend you try The Balvenie 12 Double Wood, The Dalmore 12, or a Glenfiddich 12 as a good introduction to Scotch. Of course this is my opinion and as so I agree with it πŸ™‚

      • Balvenie 12 Double Wood is my standard everyday whisky which I enjoy immensely , with a variety of others purchased on a whim or for variation as I feel at the time.

  19. Reading the book ” Undaunted Courage” by Stephen Ambrose about the Louis and Clark expedition they often mention that they gave the men in the party a dram of whiskey. Not knowing how much a dram was I googled it and wound up here. Now I know that Louis and Clark were pretty stingy with their whiskey.

  20. Merciful Fate’s ‘Convert’ program seems to be mixing linear measure with fluid.

    Bob McMillan’s ‘1/4 gill is close to the mark, I feel. When I grew up in a pub, the standard measure then was 1/5 gill (30ml) later reduced by a miserly government to 1/6, 25ml of today. I feel pretty certain that, before my experience, the standard always had been 1/4 gill, which I always regarded as ‘A Dram’. (Rightly or wrongly) These measures are all amongst the complicated and extensive system of weights and measures handed down to us by the Vikings 1000+ years ago and, until decimalisation, had stood the test of time.

    Can I just mention that I have in my possession a bottle of 1972 Brora, just waiting for the right occasion!

  21. @ Robbie Dunkeld:

    Haha, I love it! Linear measure. It would be absolutely hilarious to see someone taking a CUBIC centimetre volume of liquid, somehow stretching it out to a uniform micron thickness on a table so they could measure it’s length! ROFPMSLMFAO!!!!!!

  22. I am a newbie, and have thus far had the pleasure of drinking The Macallan 12 and 18 (my favorite), Glenmorangie Port Finish and Quinta Rubin, and Lagavulin 16.

    Any suggestions as to what else? I am interested in single malt whiskies that aren’t too smokey / peaty. Thanks!

    • You have a pretty good start going already – Speysides and then with finishes. Lagavulin is an Islay and peaty, so you already have exposure to smoke and peaty even if you didn’t realize it. I would play with some other island malts like Talisker or go with a Highland Park, which isn’t an island (it’s the northernmost distillery though!) who uses peat but isn’t overly peaty to get a hint of that smoke.

  23. Measuring is just too dram confusing. Just pour, take tiny sips, and be overwhelmed with what could be the greatest liquid known to man.

  24. Enjoyed reading all the comments and opinions.
    While I keep my Laphroaig for special occasions – like any day with a ‘y’ in it – I do really like regular Famous Grouse as a daily drinking Scotch. A blend of The Macallan and Highland Park, it is the most popular blended scotch in Scotland. Can’t be all that bad!

  25. A Dram…That measure which the Host is pleased to give and the Guest is pleased to receive. Laphroag would be better used as paint stripper. Those who market single malt are laughing their socks off at the prices we are prepared to pay. Propriatory Blend for daily consumption…Ye canna beat it…Cheers

  26. In my family, we usually go by fingers. Measure the depth of your finger against the glass and pour either a single, double, or, if the situation calls for it, three fingers.

  27. Currently at a Bunnahabhain πŸ™‚

    Clear, mellow, yet imposing, never harsh but sturdy and with surprising long-lasting after-tones

    Never water on single malt, imo, and ice on a blended whisky only, for me.
    Laphroaigh I drunk when young, in Italy now it is way all too commonly available.

    Also tried a Dutch Whisky, really outstanding.

  28. I drink scotches, bourbons, and Tennessee whiskeys, which of course include Jack Daniels.

    In bars a lot of times I order the whiskey neat, with an ice water back and a spoon. Then I can control the small amount of water I add. I only get funny looks from the server sometimes.

    I consider the amount of water correct when little swirls happen in the whiskey. No more. That way it doesn’t dilute the whiskey perceptibly but it does seem to release flavors and essences.

    I hope this may add to your enjoyment of all the awesome whiskeys out there!

    • I love the way you do it, I think that’st he only way if you’re a bar because how much water you want to add is a very personal and subjective thing. Thank you for sharing your ritual.

  29. Jus got another bottle of Laphroaig for an early Father’s Day gift. Every man should have children like these! Sometimes, I will put a couple drams of it in a pint of Guiness. They complement each other very nicely.

  30. Canadian whisky is without the ‘e’.
    All the talk—-of course—it comes from personal taste——–however—tho
    I have a certain reputation for familiarity with the ‘amber bead’—-I am often asked
    ‘Herm—what’s the best malt Scotch?——I merely point tae me glass—–!

    Hard to garble over whisky that is no in the room!

  31. In Canada we pour you a splash of whatever liquor we are introducing you too. We have a rich Scottish history and therefore a history of of pouring our guests some fine scotch.

    Not everyone likes the taste of strange liquors including scotch. So you givem a splash (dram) to wet their whistles and if they don’t like it you don’t have to waste good whiskey etc. on them.

    If they like, it then by God we will pour the elixir to the the hearts content.

    • I am a dyed in the wool Lagavulin drinker. However, thanks to a magnificent son , I have an unopened Balvenie, batch No 9 TUN 1401. Saving it for ???

  32. Whisky without the e The scots left it out they said the Irish left out plenty so the scots would make it better lol. It’s true I drank Irish whiskey til my brother introed me to single malt. I do not like blends except for crown royal. By the way I am a Texan y’all
    Cigars and single malt are my passions

  33. The dram you’re referring to is US. Not the same thing. But since your talking in US measure it’s rough 1.5 to 2oz. Some double that. We’re talking Scottish wee dram, not coins or US measures.

  34. What the hell kind of weird measure is a “fluid” “ounce” ? Isn’t ounce a unit of weight? What’s wrong with universally using litres for liquids?

  35. You really should try Springbank – it is the most traditional of all the distilleries. The entire process, including the maltings, the aging and bottling are all done there. Started by a family, has always been in that family and is still family owned. The organic, if you can find it, is fantastic.

  36. Here in Australia they measure in Nips, 1 Nip is a fluid ounce. Most local Whisky’s are not worth opening. Hard to find the good stuff in the local pub. Good to read these comments. I will look for some of the suggested labels, if found I think 2 Nips is the go.

  37. Blends, Malts, – Scotch, Irish, American, Canadian, Japanese -(and some very good Indian malts). Whatever tickles your ever changing palate.
    Most open up with a little water. All are spoiled by too much.
    First tasting –
    My tip – pour 2 equal measures but only add water to one – 2 or 3 drops a time after each sip. It’s generally quite a pleasant experience.
    AND THEN – there’s the ultra special times when you and the dram are perfectly matched.
    AND, if you’ve been clever, – you’ll know just how much aqua to drop into the next aqua vitae.
    slanj – to which the usual response is – slanj ava (phoenetic)

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