It’s safe to say that this article is one for the beginners… For the folk out there who want to try whisky and don’t know where to begin and for those who gave it a shot and had a bad experience. A little information can go a long way to getting the best out of your dram.
Many times I’ve seen someone knock back a whisky only to pull a face and declare it foul. The key to your enjoyment is taking your time.
It may sound obvious but whisky is strong alcohol- 40% abv as a minimum and often much higher. Knock it back and you’re likely to experience nothing more than heat from the spirit. All this will accomplish is inebriation and possibly illness.
Slow things down. Take little sips. Let a small drop of whisky land on the tip of your tongue and run backwards. Give it time to work its way around your palate. Be prepared for that little bit of heat and don’t expect to be blown away at the first sip. Your senses will adjust and with each successive sip you’ll notice it less. When you’re comfortable with the heat of the spirit, allow it to sit on your palate, even chew on it for a while before sending it down the hatch. You’ll soon start to notice the full depth of flavour on offer and then maybe start to appreciate why people like me want to talk about the stuff so much.
An oft-quoted tip is to hold a whisky on your palate for a second per each year of maturation. So 10 year old whisky = 10 seconds on the palate. Now I’m not sure you need to be quite so specific but as a general rule it can be useful.
Most ‘experts’ taste whisky with water added. It helps to loosen things off and bring out more flavour. For my part, I find some whiskies are improved by water and some are better neat. Try experimenting by adding a couple of drops at a time and keep increasing it until you find your sweet spot. Don’t feel you have to though, if you like it neat that’s just fine. Don’t let anyone tell you what is right or wrong…
Unless we’re talking about ice of course…
Is it ok to add ice to your whisky?
You will hear many variations of a diplomatic response to this question but there is only one correct answer and it is quite simple… No. This should be stated emphatically and possibly followed by an invitation to some correctional therapy in the alleyway outside.
I jest of course but it is fair to say that chilled whisky is muted whisky. At low temperatures, natural oils and acids within the spirit coagulate, causing the flavour profile to close up somewhat. Added to the numbing effect that ice can have on your taste buds, it is perhaps not the best way to show off a drams full character.
Now, you are free to drink your hard earned dram any damn way you choose. If you like whisky with ice, water, lemonade, cola or whatever then that is how you should drink it. I just think it’s worth pointing out that you may be missing out on the full experience it can offer.
This is no quick drink after all.. This is whisky! It has been lovingly crafted and cared for, in many cases, for years and years. Isn’t it only right that it be savoured in all it’s glory?
Of course, everyone has an opinion and that’s all I’m expressing here. Though with any luck, my rambling thoughts will prove helpful to someone and allow them to get more out of their dram. At the end of the day, that’s what this site is all about.