Whiskey Appreciation for Beginners
No other spirit has been associated with gentlemen, or just men, for that matter quite like Scotch whisk(e)y. Whether it’s the hooking punch in the mouth or just the raw and earthy process by which it is brought forth from barley and water, whisk(e)y has held a prominent place in the passage to becoming a man for centuries.
Now i’m not saying every man should stop drinking everything else and only drink whisk(e)y with their morning breakfast, but I am saying that every gentleman should at least know the differences and how to appreciate them.
Starting with the difference between ‘Whiskey’ and ‘Whisky.’
Whiskey and Whisky
“Whiskey” is spelled with or without an “e” depending on the country of origin. American whiskeys, like bourbon, rye, and Tennessee whiskey, usually spell their whiskey with an “e.” Irish whiskeys also retain the “e.” Scotch and Canadian whiskies are spelled without the “e.”
Before you dive right in and start drinking, take a moment to examine the colour of the whisk(e)y. You can learn a lot about whisk(e)y from its colour. Usually the older the whisk(e)y the darker it’s appearance.
The younger the whiskey, the lighter the colour.
This is because all whisk(e)y is usually a transparent almost water-like appearance before it goes into a barrel. The longer it stays in the barrel the more colour it adopts.
Remember that taste is largely influenced by what you smell. So to get the full experience of the whisk(e)y do yourself a favor and smell your whisky before you taste it. Now if you thrust your nose into the glass, the alcohol might be too dominant and actually burn the nostrils. Rather raise the whisky up to your nose gently until you begin to bask in its delightful aromas.
Did you know that every part of your mouth registers a different and unique taste sensation. Therefore as we get into the actual tasting of the whiskey, take a sip and try to coat the inside of your mouth with whisky for the maximum taste experience. While doing this ask yourself the following questions:
What flavours do you taste? Look for scents of vanilla, toffee or caramel.
Does the whisk(e)y taste the same way it smells?
Is the flavour clean or does it linger?
What is “finishing”?
The finish is the after taste that comes once you have swallowed the whisky. Some people say that the complexity of the finish in whisky is what differentiates it from all other spirits. Once you get passed the alcoholic burn, then numerous flavours can reveal themselves, some of which can be extremely subtle. The list can be extensive but again try and relate the flavours and sensations to things that you have tasted in the past. Also, ask yourself whether the flavours remain for a short, medium or long time. This is called the length of finish.
In the end it doesn’t matter so much which bottle you decide to buy, the key is trying all kinds of whisk(e)y and developing your palate. Each bottle of whisk(e)y has it’s own unique offering which will appeal to some but maybe not all.
Don’t worry if your first try with whisk(e)y isn’t as magical as you hoped. Something to understand is that it’s a taste that must be acquired. In my own experience, each tasting made the whole affair that much more enjoyable.