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Become a Scotch Whisky expert & impress your friends!
The classic tumbler is not very friendly towards the whisky . Before you do anything else. Once you identify what it is you like or dislike about what is going on in your mouth you’ll be better placed to intelligently discuss your whisky and choose your next one. Sound like a Whisky Connoisseur! After reading the Whisky Shop’s Top Secret Fact File.Getting Started The best way to start understanding what you tasting is to get stuck in. 3 . and allows you time to ‘nose’ and taste the whisky. not only will you sound like an expert– you will totally know what you’re talking about! Pour your whisky – DO NOT ADD WATER at this point.get the right glass Drinking from a real whisky nosing glass will always impress. you will get a nosing glass as part of your welcome pack. The narrow top keeps the flavours and aromas of the whisky in the glass. First . hold the glass up to the light and study the content. If you join the Whisky Shop’s Uisge Beatha Society. The best glass is tulip shaped.the wide gaping mouth of the glass lets all the aromas and flavours escape before you get a chance to enjoy them.
Nosing Whisky You will get a lot more from your whisky if you take the time to smell it before you swallow. Commercially. So does the colour of whisky matter? Well. little lines of spirit that run down from the swirl line. not really.not necessarily. produces a much darker golden red. For instance a Sherry cask that has already been used two or three times to mature whisky. is a darker whisky older or better than a very pale one? Well .hedging your bets). (See ‘Reading the label like a pro’ on page 8). Mainly. At this point. as far as quality goes. Understanding the colour gives you a sense of anticipation of what you can expect from the nose and taste. The colour will of course continue to darken over time. take your glass and give it a good swirl. Hold the glass a little away from your nose and breathe normally. By now your friends are probably dying of thirst – but they will have to wait a little longer. (“Probably a first fill” . possibly.is to put your hand over the top of the glass and give it a good shake. Legs Occasionally you will hear someone say “this whisky’s got good legs!” Do they mean it is about to run away with them? Well. A whisky high in alcohol will keep a bit of a head for a short while.The Colour Your whisky can range in colour from almost clear through golden straw to dark amber gold with a reddish glow. In reality when it comes to drinking whisky. You will probably see some ‘legs’. You may want to repeat this couple of times for effect! 5 . the colour can add to your experience. which is why some whiskies are tinted with flavourless caramel to make them more appealing to the eye. Whisky will rapidly absorb the colour from the cask and a clear product can turn quite dark in only two to three weeks. This can happen with a ‘finish’ – more about this later. Generally speaking the length of the legs provides an indication of the viscosity of the whisky – how thick or thin it will feel in your mouth. Just as the colour of whisky gives you a hint of what to expect from the taste. the colour is to do with the type of barrel in which the whisky was stored. (“a refill cask” you say. nodding knowledgably!) will produce a pale product. (“Hmm!” You ponder. colour really does seem to matter. “This may be cask strength”). A fresh Sherry cask. so does the nose. One more trick . So.
Adding a tiny amount of room temperature water. consider how long the flavour lingers in your mouth after you swallow. does it bring to mind Christmas pudding and vanilla ice cream? Don’t be shy in vocalising. Taste & Mouth-feel Take a good sizeable mouthful and allow the whisky to roll back over your tongue. Mouth-feel like the flavours and aromas can help you identify the whisky you are drinking. Experiment. the age. 7 . using your own terminology. Ice? Each to his own – but Imagine you left expensive bottle of Sauvignon Blanc in the fridge and chilled it to just above freezing – you wouldn’t do this because you’d barley be able to taste it at all. just one drop at a time. can help to open up the smell and the flavours of the whisky. Is the taste multi-layered? Does it change quite rapidly in your mouth? From sweet to smoky perhaps? If you want to start analysing the meaning of the flavours you taste. with notes of citrus fruit and nuts”. to a whisky with alcohol content of 47% or higher. that’s fine. Jot down the distillery. Why do it with your whisky? As the ice melts it will also dilute your whisky in way you can’t control.Identify any aromas or fragrances. become smokier perhaps? Dry or bitter? Add Water? Sometimes the alcohol in whisky can interfere with your sampling experience. Do you like what you are experiencing from the whisky so far? All this information helps you to assess the ‘palate’ of the whisky. there is no right or wrong in this and you may well taste something completely different from the person next to you. you can use a flavour & aroma wheel. alcohol percentage.plus props always look good! Next. It will help you pin-point the whisky in terms of complexity . This is the ‘finish’. It may cause your nose to prickle or falsely suggest pepper & spice on your tongue. Consider what you smell and relate it to what it reminds you of. you’ll certainly get attention. What do you taste? Again relate what you taste to other experiences. Finally. taste etc. hang on to it for a while before you swallow. Is it long or short? Does the flavour change. Most importantly did you like it? What was your impression? You’ll soon find a little pattern emerging which will help you to identify where your preferences lie. your thoughts on nose. But you may prefer to impress with something along the lines of: “malty. If teenage boy’s socks or Rotorua on a bad day comes to mind. how does the whisky feel in your mouth? Is it thin? Or dry? Or oily? This is referred to as mouth-feel. Encourage your friends to ‘share’. You can buy a Whisky Journal Notepad from The Whisky Shop. Keep a Journal Make notes on each whisky you taste.
(See ‘The lowdown on the regions’ below). If the distillery name is smaller and below a larger brand name. Subtract this from the bottling date to get the exact age.An independent bottler. but here are some of the most common terms: Distillery/Brand: If the distillery name is large and prominent. Often with an exceptionally good result. Blended Whisky: a blend of one or more single malts and industrially produced grain whisky. but it was . The region will give a very general idea of the style of the whisky. Islay or Highland. Chieftain’s) this tells us that the whisky was distilled by the distillery named.e. (i. but also for sneakily getting as much information about the spirit before you have to analyse it with your friends. Age statement: The length of time that the youngest whisky in that bottle was matured in the cask before bottling. Whisky labels vary. blended together. Region: Where the whisky is from. Type of whisky: Single malt whisky: comes from one single distillery and is made of barley. 9 What does the bottle tell us? Reading The Label Like A Pro This is very handy not only for choosing a Whisky.e.bottled by someone else . It may come from several casks. Independent bottlings will hold true to the style of the distillery and are produced in smaller quantities. Year: The year of distillation. i. Blended Malt whisky/vatting: two or more single malts from different distilleries. yeast and water. then the whisky was bottled by the distillery itself.
may be numbered. but sometimes in style from within the same distilleries. Cask Strength: The whisky was bottled at the exact alcohol percentage – strength. Hogshead or a type i. Ideal aperitif style whisky. full-bodied. Finally . tang of salt.e. Bunnahabhain is the exception with no noticeable peatiness.e. They vary hugely. Often have a characteristically dry finish. dry finish.Cask type: May specify a size i. smooth and floral. It also removes some of the flavour. little or no peat. Lowland: Often triple distilled. Finish: i.the Regions The more whiskies you sample the more you will realise that they cannot be accurately characterised by region. varying degrees of peat and smoke. A finish can be a very good thing or it can disguise a mediocre whisky. This process may last only for a few weeks or up to about 18 months. it was when it left the cask.e. leather and wood-fires. pear-drops. Highland: Medium bodied. Contains caramel: Caramel has been added to deepen the colour. sweet. Often sweet start. smoky finish. Takes sherry well. Often sherried and malty. salt and smoke. iodine. Heather & moss. Island: Seaweed & salt. spicy. aromas of tar. floral aroma. not only within a region. Alcohol percentage: The percentage of alcohol by volume of the whisky in that particular bottle. Hints of butterscotch. sherry butt/ bourbon cask. Smooth & light with little or no peat. That said the following is a very general and loose guide to the regions. Speyside: Sweet. Non/un-chill filtered: Chill filtration removes the amino acids that cause the whisky to cloud when cold. Campbeltown: Full-flavoured. Port finish means that the whisky was taken from its original cask and ‘finished’ in a Port cask to add flavour and colour. Islay: Sweet start. whiff of smoke & peat. hints of white pepper on the back palate. 11 .
impress & most importantly – SHARE! Slainte Mhath! Katey & Bart The Whisky Shop actively promotes responsible drinking! .Now that you have a better idea of what makes your perfect dram — get sampling. Enjoy.
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