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Over the past two decades, whisky has experienced a resurgence of interest and is still finding new audiences, and with good reason—whisky is exquisite. However, for the novice whisky drinker, it can seem intimidating, and it can take a while to find out which type of whisky suits your taste. Whether you’re new to the whisky world or looking to broaden your whisky related knowledge, discover our easy steps to becoming a whisky drinker below, and find new ways to enjoy this delicious spirit.
1. Order Whisky Samples
The world of whisky can seem like a minefield. With so many different brands, flavors, and types of whisky available, it can be both intimidating and difficult trying to find the right one for you. A common misconception about whisky is that it tastes overwhelmingly of smoke and wood, and whilst a smoky, peaty flavor is a defining characteristic for some whiskies, there is a broad spectrum of flavors that might be more appealing to you. From lighter blends that are infused with fresh fruit, vanilla, and floral essences to richer mixtures with dried fruit, malt, honey, and spice, the wide variety of whisky flavors means that there is sure to be a type of whisky to suit your taste.
In addition to the different flavors, there are also the different types of whiskies to consider. From scotch and Irish to bourbon and Canadian, each type has its own unique taste and profile, and you may find that you prefer one over another.
Finding the right whisky is the fun part because it can involve lots of sampling. Ordering samples is the best way to try a range of whiskies at once so that you can then compare the elements you enjoyed and the ones you didn’t. The best advice is to do your research before diving in and pouring yourself a large glass. Identify the flavor profile of each blend and the type of whisky it is, so you can begin to map the characteristics you like and discover your perfect bottle. If in doubt, you can always ask an expert, whether that be at your local liquor store or a whisky event.
2. Try a Whisky Cocktail
If drinking whisky neat is too much to handle, then opt for a whisky-based cocktail to ease you in instead. A traditional whisky cocktail will use a perfect balance of ingredients to really complement and bring out the unique characteristics of the spirit. For example, citrus works well with the rich undertones of whisky, as does ginger.
Try a Whisky Sour, Old Fashioned or Manhattan at your next visit to your favorite bar. The simple combination of ingredients works seamlessly and does not overwhelm the whisky so that you can still enjoy the depth of flavor. A whisky cocktail is the perfect way to ease yourself into drinking the spirit before becoming a full-fledged whisky drinker.
3. Add a Drop of Water
The perfect way to drink whisky has long been debated, but ultimately it comes down to personal preference. Whether you prefer it neat or on the rocks is up to you, but whisky experts and novices alike both attest to the benefit of adding a drop of water to your beverage. Even a single drop will “open up” the whisky, which means you will be able to taste more depth as the flavors merge to become more evenly balanced. Without water, you often taste the elements individually as opposed to simultaneously. Also, the addition of water helps to prevent throat burn, which is a definite plus if you’re a whisky drinking newbie.
4. Pour the Perfect Serve
Whilst there may be disagreements over the best way to drink whisky, there can be no argument over the perfect way to serve the beverage. For starters, don’t swirl your whisky; simply pour straight from the bottle into your glass to ensure that the blend remains intact. Swirling can cause more alcohol to be released, which in turn changes the taste.
The right glass can make all the difference when drinking whisky, as it can elevate the experience. When it comes to the right glass, you can opt for an Old-Fashioned whisky glass or a Glencairn glass. It’s likely you’re familiar with an Old-Fashioned glass—it’s a short tumbler with a wide mouth, short sides and thick base, which is designed to release the aromatics of the whisky on straight pours. The Glencairn glass has been expertly crafted for optimum whisky enjoyment. The tulip shape of the glass guides the smell of the whisky to your nose as you take a sip so that you can fully appreciate the aroma and taste at the same time.
5. Learn How to Taste Whisky
Look at your whisky in a glass, preferably against a white background, and note the color. This can indicate the age of the whisky, for example older whiskies tend to have a deeper tone due to the barrels they were aged in. However, if you know that the whisky is only three years old, yet it has a deep color, this could be a sign that artificial ingredients were added.
Feel like a true whisky connoisseur and inhale the aromas of the spirit. Try to see if you can pick up any notes, for example a smoky, peaty whisky will have a more recognisable smell. Inhaling the aroma of the whisky will help you to absorb and appreciate the flavors.
Take small sips and swirl the drink around your mouth to get the full flavor. Some whiskies will taste completely different to how they smell, so make sure to take a couple of sips close together to get the full nuanced spectrum of flavor. Once you have tried the whisky, as mentioned earlier, you could always add a splash of water to open up the flavors and also enjoy a slightly diluted drink.
The taste left on the palate after you have drunk your whisky is called the finish. At this point, you may notice a different taste to what you experienced initially, and you may also pick up different notes. The longer you can taste the flavors, the longer the finish. Often this signifies a more complex whisky.
Whether you’re new to the whisky game or want to find out the best way to enjoy the spirit, follow this simple guide to become a full-fledged whisky drinker.