Whisky on the rocks and other bullshit
Pardon me if the title sounded a bit snobby. I will be the first to admit that when it comes to whiskies, I am a bit of a snob (and you should be too). Till a few years ago, I did not have a palate for whisky and would have added coke to a 25 year old Glenfarclas to be able to drink it. As my interest in wines grew, I was more aware of my palate and started picking up whiskies from duty free, mostly Scottish single malts and Bourbons. That was my introduction to whisky and I had never really tasted Indian “Whisky”, which is mostly made from molasses and not grain and malt.
A distilled spirit, aged in oak barrels, whisky sounds deceptively simple. The fun begins when you start tasting whisky to first understand the style and it’s characteristics. Think of Islay, smoky and peaty whiskies come to mind, or a delicious house fire as John Oliver would put it.
Tasting notes have just one rule, nothing is wrong. You try and seek flavours you can identify, from notes which will prevail in most whiskies like vanilla, spices and oak to band-aid and rubber. The only way to get the maximum out of your whisky in terms of flavours and complexity is to drink it correctly, which is minimalistic, all you need a spoon or two of water and a proper glass.
First let’s put the whisky with water and soda debate aside
As everyone would say, drink whisky the way you like it. Makes sense, you enjoy it with tons of water and soda, go for it. Wrong. I don’t quite agree. It’s like saying eat your ice cream how ever you like it, frozen and cold or melted. Who likes melted ice cream?
If you are used to your whisky diluted, give this method a chance. Whisky with a tea spoon or two of water and that’s it. If it is really hot, I will substitute water for a small cube of ice. If I am in a posh mood, I will even bring out a giant square or round ice cube, which would last 3 drinks atleast.
The basic idea is to not dilute. Do you like your beer diluted? Do you like your coffee watery? Then why compromise on whisky. If you are not in the mood to have a whisky neat, explore one of the several whisky cocktails, like my all time favourite, the Old Fashioned, a delicious mix of whisky (ideally Bourbon), bitters, brown sugar and a garnish of an orange peel.
Whisky in a wine glass is cool
Forget the whisky tumbler. A Glencairn glass (second in the picture) was specially designed to taste whisky but are not easy to find. White wine glasses are easy to get, not expensive and work wonderfully. The glass primarily has one job, capture and concentrate the aromas in the glass so you can nose (read smell) your drink. With a proper glass, just keeping the glass near your lips is perfect, getting you all the aromas and less of the alcohol burn. Look at all the flavours on this whisky wheel, no wide mouth tumbler will let you get to these.
There’s a little Bourbon in your Single Malt
We all know at-least one whisky drinking friend who will look down upon Bourbon while sipping on a Lagavulin 16 (which I love). But there is a connection here. Distilled whisky is clear, like a vodka or gin. The colour and majority of the flavours come from the oak barrels. A significant amount of single malt Scotch whiskies are aged in ex Bourbon barrels. One of the rules for crafting Bourbon whisky includes using only new American oak barrels for ageing. Turns out, Scottish whiskies seem to like ex Bourbon barrels a lot! Since the once used barrels cannot be used again by a Bourbon producer, this works well in everyones favour.
- Original Distillate