How To Taste Whiskey Like a Legend
With Smoke & Barrels Smoked Meats & Whiskey Festival just days away from starting…(if you don’t know what we’re talking about, better get off your mammoth in to the 21st Century and check it out)…we thought we’d do a virtual crash-course in tasting whiskey like a legend!
1- Pick Your Glassware Well
Although not paramount, a true connoisseur will tell you the shape of your class makes a big difference. Recommended is a snifter…wider at the base and narrower at the opening…kind of like a stubby little wine glass if you can imagine! This shape allows you to swirl the whiskey around to release the aromas and then concentrate them as you inhale them.
Odds are if you are tasting in a restaurant or distillery, you will be served the proper glassware. But if not, a simple wine glass will do the trick.
2- Everybody Nose it’s All in the Nose!
As whiskey is straight up alcohol, it’s not like a wine-tasting situation where you breathe in like it’s your last to get every last sceric of hints and flavour nods…sniff delicately or the alcohol content may just make you woozey! Simply swirl gently and take a light sniff, right from the top of your glass. As you swirl, take a good look at colour and viscosity…darker whiskey generally tell you it has been aged longer and viscosity generally determines a blend from a single malt.
Try not to search for any one aroma, keep an open mind…and nose as it were! Peating, woods, spices, Islay, Malt blends…there are many elements to look out for.
Search your mind for nostalgia! Smells are often linked to memories: grandpa’s desk (leather, wood, age, mustiness), Christmas (Christmas cake, dried fruits, sultanas, port), a farm house getaway (dried grass, wood), a barbecue on the beach (salt, smoke, seaweed, ). Everyone will have their own memories!
When you feel like you’ve nosed enough, taste your whiskey. Take a very small sip, and pucker your lips into an ‘O’ shape. Move your tongue to your lips and suck in air. You will, in essence, be gargling the whiskey. It’s kinda gross. But hey, so is spiting wine back in to a bucket right? Right! The first few (hundred) times you do this, you may gag. That has less to do with you and more with the strength of the whiskey. Those of us who are chronic whiskey, aahhhh…. appreciators (phew!) will be used to that reflex.
Alternate between gargling and rolling the whiskey around in your mouth. Again, don’t look for anything in particular, just try to observe what you taste.
If you’re thinking, I taste alcohol, that’s fine! It’s definitely there! However, a few stabs at tasting might bring out new flavors for you. When you feel like you have had a good taste of the whiskey, swallow it.
Feel the burn? That’s the finish. Is it long, short, pleasant, ouchy? All of those (including ouchy by the way) are fair & reasonable adjectives!
4- To Water? Or Not To Water? That is the question!
Some (somewhat sanctimonious) people will tell you to never put water in whiskey. To that we say, this is Stray and why the heck not! Whiskey is not untouchable holy juice! A little bit of H2O can open it up adding new aroma and taste layers, so repeat the whole “swirl, smell, sip, swallow” process with water added to your whiskey. Don’t pour in a whole bottle, but a few drops should do just fine. If your whiskey is very high proof, a few more won’t hurt…if you ask us personally, we don’t mind a little fresh apple juice with ours 😉 Sacrilegious, we know…but we like to rock the boat!
Don’t miss our extensive Whiskey Menu featuring some of the word’s most peated whiskeys here during the Smoke & Barrels Festival...check out what else is on for the Month of March…Smoke & Barrels is here for a good time, not a long time!