Tastings - Become a malt whisky buff
Whether in a pub in front of a crackling fire or on a distillery tour, Scotch whisky is one of life's little pleasures. Maybe you've the refined palette of a connoisseur or have never tasted a dram before in your life. There is nothing like proper tasting to unlock the secrets of a single malt.
You'll find whisky tasting, cocktail making and food pairing events at locations such as a distilleries, whisky shops, bars and restaurants.
If you don't the chance to attend a professional tasting, why not hold your own? Here are our top tips:
Before you begin
Ensure sure you have a clean, tulip-shaped nosing glass and a jug of still water at room temperature. Unlike tumblers, a tulip glass traps the aromas in the bulbous bottom of the glass.
Step 1. Pour
Serve your whisky neat, or with a little water added. No tap-water or (heaven forbid) mixers please. To appreciate the aroma and flavour to the utmost, a measure of malt whisky should be cut (diluted) with one to two-thirds as much spring water. Still, bottled spring water will do.
Step 2. Look
Hold your glass up against a neutral background and examine the colour. Scotch whisky appears a light gold, amber or dark ochre colour depending on the wood finish of the cask it is stored in and the length of time it has been aged in it.
Step 3. Swirl
Give your glass a good swirl so that the inside is well coated. Notice the legs streaking down the glass. The more there are and the faster they run indicates the malt is quite thin and probably a light-bodied or younger whisky.
Conversely, if the legs take longer to form and run slowly down the sides of the glass, or there are fewer of them and they appear quite thick, the single malt is most likely fuller bodied or older. You get the gist.
Step 4. Nose
Stick your nose in the glass and take two or three short, sharp sniffs. Do this again and again, pulling the glass away before bringing it back to your nose. Open your mouth slightly as you inhale to allow the bouquet to really circulate.
What do you smell? Maybe you're picking up fruit and flowers, or maybe seaweed or a bonfire? No matter how unexpected the images and scents the whisky conjures up, there are no wrong answers. It's all part of the fun anyway.
Step 5. Taste
Take a sip or two. Then cut each one with half as much still spring water again and repeat the process. Breathe in and out while rolling the whisky over your tongue and around your mouth. As do you so, try to pick out the flavours you can remember from sniffing.
Before you swallow, try to think about how the whisky feels in your mouth. Is it silky smooth, dry, a little syrupy or tingly on the tongue? Now you've got the full-measure of your chosen malt, try some others and discover the whisky that's right for you.