Tasting Scotch Whisky
24 Aug 2012
What to taste?
There are many ways to approach a Scotch Whisky tasting, for
example, tasting whiskies of different ages, from different
regions, or those matured in different casks. This is all part of
the fun and discovery.
Select a suitable
A tulip-shaped glass will help to compare different whiskies by
trapping the aromas in the bottom and releasing them in the small
area at the top of the glass. Whisky is also often enjoyed from a
tumbler, particularly if drunk with water or as a long drink.
Use your eyes
Hold up the glass up against a neutral background. What you see
is important, as colour can give clues about the age of the whisky
and the type of cask used for maturation.
New-make spirit prior to maturation is as clear as water. After
years maturing in the cask, however, it can be a much darker
colour. The colour comes from the whisky sitting in the cask over
years, ebbing and flowing in and out of the wood.
Check the legs
Swirl the whisky around the glass, coating its sides thoroughly.
Then wait and watch, as the liquid runs back down the side of the
glass, the 'legs' of the whisky.
If the 'legs' are thin and run quickly, then it may be a younger
or lighter whisky. If the 'legs' are slow and thick, then it may be
a heavier or older whisky.
Next the nose
Confirm your assumptions and discover more about the dram using
your nose. Indeed, a master distiller will use his nose alone to
make judgements about a whisky.
Don't worry if it proves difficult to describe the aroma -
scientists have discovered a wide range of flavours in whisky and
different people will pick up different aromas. With a little
practice, it becomes easier.
Add some water
After 'nosing' the whisky, try adding a little still water, then
use your nose again. The water will reduce the alcohol content, and
raises the temperature slightly releasing more of the whisky's
flavours - and you will see this happening in your glass.
And now, finally,
Sip the whisky and allow it to lie on the tongue and coat the
sides of your mouth. You might pick out different flavours to those
you were aware of using your nose. Roll the spirit around so that
it comes into contact with all your taste buds, sweetness at the
tip of the tongue, saltiness along the sides, dryness and
bitterness at the back.
The wonderful flavours will develop, unfolding in the mouth. Ask
yourself what flavours you are experiencing and how the whisky
feels in your mouth. Does the flavour last a long time or does it
disappear quickly? This is the whisky's finish.
So what did you taste?
Well, there is no right or wrong answer. Everyone and every
whisky is different. That is why tasting Scotch Whisky is such an
enjoyable and rewarding individual experience.
Also remember that when tasting different whiskies, always do so
responsibly. Scotch Whisky is a drink to be sipped and savoured.
Have water available - this will cleanse the palate and can be
interspersed between trying different whiskies.