The Measures of a Man

In front of my whiskey shelf lies a line of measures. On occasions I have seen my friends look askance as I carefully measure out our drams. By birth I am an Aberdonian, a people alleged to be cautious and thrifty, having short arms and deep pockets none of these qualities has anything to do with my using measures.

My reasons for measures are several and in no particular order:


I like to know how much water I have added or to repeat my preferred amount in future which clearly requires the use of a measure.

Units of Alcohol

By using a measure I know how many units of alcohol I have consumed and indeed how many calories. It is ironic that since moving from being a wine ‘expert’ to appreciating whiskey, I have consumed less alcohol by unit and lost weight! Look for a future Blog ‘the health benefits of drinking whiskey’ which will require a disclaimer I suspect!


There is something about the ritual of the measure and the use of old measures which are ‘objet d’art’ in themselves that I enjoy.

Ok in my youth my friends and I have ‘ersed’ a bottle or in quick order but now as I savour each sip the joys of excess are things of my past.

NOTE: ’ersed’ our Scottish word of the week means finished in its entirety rapidly and with vigour.

I use an Angel Share Water Dropper, highly recommended which adds to the ritual. I only drink from Glen Cairn glasses. Ritual is important but not as much as the company I drink with and the occasion, or the quality of the whisky enjoyed.

The Measures

I actually have 4 measures. I originally bought a double-sided 25ml/50ml modern measure. The current UK pub single and double.

I then bought a 35ml which is almost a quarter gill, the historic measure of my grandfather and fathers era the demise of which caused such heartache in pubs the length of Scotland as metrication replaced these whiskey drinker standards – clearly a way for manipulative pub groups to sell less whiskey at the same price. I remember the uproar and feel it a personal campaign to return the quarter gill to its rightful place.

My quarter gill antique measure source on eBay when it arrived turned out to be a quarter pint – a full gill and a bit too much of a measure to drink in one sitting. I will in time source and fit a 35ml glass vial inside this wonderful old measure.

Now, to be frank ,IMHO, 25ml is just not enough to properly savour and taste a dram.

50ml is what I would most naturally regard as a good sized measure or as one of my friends calls it a ‘gentleman’s measure’. My whiskey drinking lady friends have no issue with this measure.

A quarter gill 35.5ml is a good amount for proper tasting, I personally think but that is just me. Sure, I might have a couple of these on a quiet evening drinking by myself or with a friend. 25 ml is one unit of alcohol.

35ml also has the benefit of giving 20 quarter gills from a 70ml bottle which if nothing else is tidy.

U.S. Measures

I like the American standard measure which tends to be since Prohibition as follows but not always:

Jigger (U.S.) 1.5 fl oz
Short shot (U.S.) 1.5 fl oz

Both the equivalent of 44 ml. I find this a perfect measure for Bourbon.
2 fingers is less consistent or measurable!

Older Measures

In case you all rush out to buy old measures, I ought to warn that several of these risk adding inadvisable elements to your dram. Very old pewter from 17th and 18th century was made from a tin alloy and it sometimes had lead added as a hardener. In late 18th century, Britannia metal became used and is held to be safe – albeit it is made from an alloy of tin, antimony and copper. So research your antique measures before using them.

What measure do you use and why?