The first thing you need to know is that there is no one golden rule about how whisky ought to be drunk, but here are some tips that may enhance your whisky-drinking experience, or at least make you look very cool!
Whiskyis a complex beverage that contains a lot of flavouring compounds, which define the whisky’s character and flavour. Some argue that you should never put ice in your tumbler, because it will kill the taste and aroma of your whisky, but others maintain that it opens up the flavour – the only way to decide, is to try it for yourself!
Often, the price is a good way to gouge the quality ofyour scotch. Try tasting whiskies from different regions or ages or different casks! Remember: whisky tasting involves all five senses.
- First you need to select a suitable glass: the best glasses for whisky tasting are elongated glasses with a stubby stem. There trap the aromas in the bottom and release them in the small area at the top to the glass. These glasses are used at whisky tastings as they enable you to sniff and swirl it.
- Take a long look atwhat you’re drinking!! Hold it up, examine the colour – colour can give an idea of age and cask. (Prior to maturation, the spirit is colourless like water, and the colour comes from the cask!)If you wish to sound like a cultured connoisseur, it’s good to compare it to something poetic and vaguely the same colour. Like sunsets, peaches, amber, or sun-burnished gold just before a sunset on a Tuesday in Autumn. You get the idea.The more obscure or frilly, the better. Your friends might make fun of you – but then they obviously just don’t get it.
- Next, you get to swirl the glass – it’s called checking the legs.(Swirling the whisky will also help release the aromas!) Swirl the whisky and watch as it runs back down the side of the glass. This is what’s meant by the ‘legs’. Heavier and older whiskies have slow and thick ‘legs’.Younger and lighter whiskies have thin legs that run quickly.
- Check the nose: this part is important. (And it will make you look like you know what you’re doing!) Carefully raise the glass to your nose, but beware: whisky with high alcohol content can temporarily damage your nasal passages! Then, describe it – what did it make you think of?This bit works just like the colour and taste: find something that has nothing to do with whisky, add some adjectives. Let your imagination fly free. Examples include: Aunt Mildred’s favourite autumn coat. Your grandfather’s bookshelves. That one picnic you went on in third grade…
- Water: this is where you can try diluting it. Try adding just a little water, then check the nose again! The water lowers the alcohol content and releases more flavours!
- Taste –finally, the bit you’ve been waiting for! Slowly sip a little of the whisky and allow it to lie on your tongue, waiting for the flavour to strike. Roll the whisky around and try to pick out flavours. How long does the flavour last? This is the finish. It can be short, medium or long. Is it dry or smooth, and have any new flavours appeared? Hint: use words like ‘character’, ‘engaging’, ‘complex’, ‘round’, ‘mellow’, ‘versatile’, ‘smoky’ etc.
- Note: if you’re tasting more than one whisky, it’s a good idea to have water available to drink in between – this will cleanse the palate so your taste-buds don’t get all confused!
- Why not got to a real whisky tasting? You’ll get expert guidance and make friends while you’re at it!