When you think of Whisky or Whiskey in Europe most people immediately think of Scotland, followed by Ireland. However, nowadays the liquor is made in multiple countries in Europe and many places offer tours. Because of that, this blog post is going to take a slight detour from our normal travel-related tips to tell you how to best enjoy it no matter what country you are in.
How Do You Drink Whisky?
Whisky can be enjoyed on any occasion, but my favorite time is to enjoy it with friends, speaking about the whisky, sharing the aromas, and, above all, having fun. There are not many rules regarding whisky tasting. You don’t even have to like whisky … but it certainly might help!
Choosing a Whisky Glass
When selecting a tasting glass for your whisky, it’s not important to pull out your best crystalware. I suggest you select a glass that has a nice tulip shape to it and a small closure at the top which keeps the aroma in because a lot of the beauty of whisky is in how that whisky smells. With a glass of whisky in your hand it is very tempting just to drink it, but I urge you to take a moment and look at the color of the whisky. The color might be light gold, it might be dark copper, and this is an indication of possibly the cask style that has been used and also the age of the whisky in the glass.
It is important to hold the glass of whisky properly. Don’t smother it in your hands and hide the lovely golden liquid or warm it up as you might do with a Cognac snifter. Hold it at the base of the glass. When you swirl the whisky inside the glass, it will coat the inside of the glass very lightly. And if you watch it for a moment, the whisky will run down the side of the glass and form what we call ‘legs’ where the whisky clings to the side for a little bit. The longer it clings, the stronger the whisky is and possibly the older it is as well.
By looking at that color, it may divulge some of the information about the style of whisky you’re about to drink. If it’s very dark, it may indicate that it’s an old whisky or it’s been matured in a sherry cask. If it’s very light, then vice versa, it may divulge that it’s a younger whisky or maybe come from a bourbon American oak cask. Your nose is all-important when you drink whisky, If you’ve ever tried to drink whisky by holding your nose you’ll realize this.
The whisky will have no taste. Hold the glass, swirl the whisky and put your nose to the glass, but go gently towards the glass and take a light sniff and take in all of the aromas that are coming out of the glass.
Don’t be afraid to get your nose in there and smell the whisky because nobody is a more connoisseur of your nose than you. There will be many people who will want to tell you what you should smell, but it’s only you will be able to discern what you can smell from that whisky.
Adding Water or Soda To Your Whisky
When you first taste the whisky, it’s a very important thing because it will tell you how much water or soda water to add if any.
Most professional tasters recommend that you add some water but only a teardrop size, just enough to warm the whisky up slightly and to release those aromas that have been hidden. The first taste will be a little bit numbing it’s your palate acclimating to that strength of alcohol. But hold it just that little bit longer than you typically would and that will get you used to it. Let the whisky roll around your mouth. On your tongue, you will pick up different flavors.
At the front, it’s fruity and sweet and at the back it’s bitter. To the side of the tongue, you get salty notes. The whisky then moves over your tongue and you swallow. These flavors will develop and then diminish. With some whiskies, the taste will linger a lot longer this is called the finish and the flavors will change. I suggest you shut your eyes, use your imagination to pick up these different characters.
For me, if available I prefer adding Soda Water as I think the carbonation helps with the release of aromas and flavors.
To Chill Or Not To Chill Whisky
Wait – is that ice you’re adding? You can add ice to your whisky if you like it that way but be aware that by adding ice, you chill the whisky and that will lose and kill some of the flavors. Adding ice also dilutes the whisky which is why some that prefer chilled whisky now use whisky stones that chill but don’t dilute.
To put in in beer drinking terms, the big breweries like Budweiser and Coors in the United States always want their beer to be served as cold as possible because their beers really don’t taste good when served warmer like Craft Beer or English Ales. The same applies to whisky, if you chill it down it mutes the flavors.
The Scotch Malt Whisky Society
The Scotch Malt Whisky Society is probably the world’s unofficially most important club that you can belong to if you enjoy Whisky. It is headquartered in Edinburgh but has multiple locations and partner bars located throughout the world. The website is a great concise source to learn about Whisky.
Besides tastings, being a member allows you to purchase rare and unique bottles. The Society gets outtakes from distilleries around the world and repackages and rebrands them as their own. The names they have are truly one of a kind.
Even if you are not a member of the Society, non-members can dine in one of the clubs in Edinburgh. Reservations are required. https://smws.com/venues/28-queen-street
Tasting whisky, it’s not a test, it’s not an exam. Whisky is there to be enjoyed. It’s an experience. Enjoy it with your friends, your families. Cheers.
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