How to Drink Whisky

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This wee article is for those people who have a desire to try whisky but don’t know where to begin and also for those who gave it a shot and had a rough experience. Just a little information can go a long way towards getting the best out of your dram.

On many occasions I’ve seen someone knock a whisky back and pull a face like they’ve been poisoned. The key to the enjoyment of this spirit is taking your time.

It may sound blindingly obvious but whisky is strong – 40% alcohol by volume – as a minimum, often it is even stronger. Knock it back in one and you’re likely to experience nothing more than a burning sensation from the spirit while all you accomplish is a state of inebriation and possible 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 when you’re comfortable with the heat of the spirit, allow it to sit on your palate, swirl it around, even chew on it for a little while. You will soon begin to notice the full depth of flavour on offer and maybe you will start to appreciate why people like me spend so much time talking about the stuff. 

An oft-quoted tip is to hold a whisky on your palate for one second per each year of maturation. So 10 year old whisky = 10 seconds on the palate. Now, while I’m not sure you need to be quite so specific it could prove useful as a general rule. 

Water

Most ‘experts’ taste whisky with water. It helps to loosen things off and brings 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 of course, we’re talking about ice…

Ice

Is it ok to add ice to whisky? You will hear many diplomatic responses to this question but there is only really only one correct answer and it is quite simple… No. This should be stated emphatically and be followed at all times by an invitation to some correctional therapy in the alleyway outside. 

I jest of course but it is fair to say that chilled whisky can be dulled whisky. At low temperatures, oils and acids within the spirit coagulate, causing some of 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. 

Of course, you are free to drink your hard earned dram any way you damn well choose. If you like whisky with ice, water, lemonade, cola or whatever else then that is how you should drink it. I just think it’s worth pointing out that excessive chilling could be hindering the full experience a dram can offer.

This is no quick drink after all.. This is whisky we’re talking about. It has been lovingly crafted and cared for, in many cases, for a great number of years. Isn’t it only right that it be savoured in all it’s glory?

Still, everyone has an opinion and that’s all I’m expressing here. With any luck though, my rambling utterances will prove helpful to someone and allow them to get more out of the dram in their glass. At the end of the day, that’s what this site is really all about.

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