Welcome to your Whisky Masterclass!
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KNOW YOUR WHISKIES!
With its vast diversity and innovation, the world of whisky is an exciting place. However, it can be intimidating to a whisky novice, so Costcutter are here to help you on your way!
Let’s start with looking at types of whisky:
• SINGLE MALT WHISKY – this is one of the most popular spirits in the world. “Single Malt” refers to a whiskey which is distilled at one distillery and then matured and bottled. Single malt whiskies are produced in various locations around the world, the most popular being Scotland, Ireland and Japan. Single malt whisky can only be called “Scotch” if it comes from Scotland!
• GRAIN WHISKY – These are much cheaper to produce than single malts. This is because the raw ingredients are more readily available and less expensive. Since grain whiskies are produced constantly (rather than in small batches like single malts) this also makes them cheaper. Grain whiskies have always been used in blends as a foundation, with the single malts being used as “accents”.
• BLENDED WHISKY – This is made of a mix of single malts and grain whiskies, produced at different distilleries and of different ages. The whiskies are blended together to create a smoother and more complex drink, with each part bringing its own characteristic to the blend. Different brands use different recipes – some blended whiskies can contain over 50 different single malt and grain whiskies combined! Remember, there is no such thing as “double malt” whiskies – they are just known as “blended”.
• VATTED WHISKY – Vatted whiskies are also produced by mixing different whisky types together. However, only a mix of single malts are used, therefore that is the only difference between blended and vatted whisky.
• AGED BLENDS – When a blended or vatted whisky shows an age on the label, this is obviously confusing, since we already discussed that the whiskies used are a mix of ages. So how do we know the meaning of the age shown? The answer is simple! This refers to the age of the youngest whisky present in the blend. Other whiskies included will therefore be of the same age or older.
TASTING THE WHISKY
We’ll let you into a secret – nobody is born a whisky expert! Don’t worry if you struggle to smell and taste certain aspects that other people do – it all comes down to experience and practice!
• THE GLASS – If you want to capture an aroma, a glass with a narrow opening (known as a “snifter”) will channel the scent best. A glass plate over the top of the glass will also help trap in smell!
• THE NOSE – Pour in a reasonable amount of whisky into the glass and swirl it round, allowing oxygen to get to it. This will allow it to breathe and “express” it’s characteristics. Hold the glass to your nose and breathe in, allowing the aroma to circulate. Repeat 3-4 times and think about what the smell reminds you of. You’ll likely find that the first smell is just of alcohol, but the second, third and fourth sniff will reveal deeper aromas!
• THE PALATE – The flavour of the whisky on your palate (i.e. the roof of your mouth) should be the most rewarding and enjoyable part of whisky tasting. Drink the whisky slowly and savour it to get maximum flavour and benefit. Pass the whisky round the different areas of your mouth, since this will allow different flavours to be experienced!
• THE FINISH – This is the aftertaste that comes once you’ve swallowed the whisky. Some people say the complexity of the finish is what make it different from other spirits. Once the alcoholic burn (ergh!) has passed then numerous flavours can reveal themselves. Try to relate these to flavours and sensations you’ve experience before and note how long the flavours last for – this is known as the “length of finish”.
WATER OR ICE?
Often people wonder the best way to drink whisky; on its own, with water or with ice? Well, depending on how you want to experience it depends on how you drink it!
• ON ITS OWN – it’s always good to try whisky in its natural state first to experience it in it’s true form!
• WITH WATER – adding a little water will release further flavours and complexities, especially in whisky with a higher alcohol level or cask strength
• WITH ICE – adding ice will make the flavours taste weaker since it rapidly drops the temperature of the whisky, therefore making the whisky taste dull and flat. If you want a weaker taste it’s recommended to add ice.
So, there you have it – a not-so-brief overview of whisky!! You can impress your friends and family with your knowledge and most importantly, have fun whilst drinking it. It all boils down to personal taste and there are no right or wrongs. Make sure you pop in to Costcutter to pick up a bottle of whisky and get tasting!