So much of the luxury lifestyle is so much more than bright lights and glamour. It is a nod to tradition, to ritual, to a civilized way of being in the world that is rich in character and a coming together of the different and the fascinating. In the same way, fine Scotch whisky is so much more than indulgency – it is the embodiment of a higher state and the result of masterful blending and perfect ageing.
But many of life’s great pleasures are acquired tastes and worth the pursuit. For many, whisky is just as much an adventure as it is a drink. It invites you to explore and indulge in its diversity. Each country traditionally produces its own style of whisky, but even within that style there is an incredible range of whiskies to choose from.
Whisky isn’t the easiest drink to embrace. Its alcohol level is much higher than beer and wine, and some of the names, like those of Gaelic-rooted Scotch whiskies, can be difficult to pronounce. Whiskies, though, are rich and diverse in flavours – more than any other distilled spirit. At their extreme, the really smoky, peat-infused Scotch whiskies can be downright challenging.
Within the broad category of whisky are many sub-categories, including bourbon, rye, Tennessee, Scotch, Irish and Caribbean style whiskies. The manufacture of each of these types of whisky is guided by the Government off the spirit’s country of origin. As a result, Canadian whisky, for example, is a whole different animal from Scotch whisky, Irish whisky and American-style whiskies such as Tennessee, bourbon and straight rye.
- Blended: Blended Whisky, crafted from whiskies from various distilleries, is the very backbone of the Scotch whisky industry. Save the water and lose the ice – neither is required to enjoy a glass of the pure, real thing.
- Single Malt: Single malt whisky is made from blends of whiskies produced in a single distillery. Gaining reputation as a status symbol, single malt whiskies are steadily becoming a lifestyle staple in luxury bars, at parties for the wealthy and the famous and can also make for an impressive gift.
Appreciating Your Whisky
If you’re drinking whisky just for fun, and aren’t interested in learning more about your whisky, then go ahead and drink it however you like. You paid for it and you earned that right. However, if you want to capture as many aromas and flavours as possible, then try to understand that whisky expresses itself best at room temperature. I know you are tempted to just go ahead and drink the whisky, but don’t. Not just yet, anyway.
- Look: Before you do anything, look at the whisky. You can learn a lot about your whisky by its colour. Generally speaking, the darker the whisky, the older it is, because whisky gets its colour from being in contact with the oak barrel during aging.
- Smell: realize that you can smell more from your whiskey than you will ever be able to taste. In fact, all the master blenders work primarily by nosing, not by tasting. So do yourself a favour and smell your whisky before you taste it.
- Taste: Now go ahead and taste the whisky. Make sure you coat your entire tongue and let it linger on the palate for a little while before swallowing for many of you, the alcohol will just be too intense to fully appreciate the whisky. I recommend that you add a little water to your whisky then nose and taste the whisky again. I suggest that you add a little bit at a time (a few drops) and keep adding until you find your comfort zone. Adding water brings out more of the whisky’s aroma. It also lowers the alcohol level, reducing its numbing effect on the palate.