How best to appreciate whisky

There is a lot to be gained by learning how to properly appreciate a fine single malt whisky, and here are some tips from the team at Whisky Galore that we think can help you get the most out of your whisky both at home and here at Saikou...

Choose the right whisky – Have a look at the menu and read some of the descriptions of each the whiskies on offer – does a rich, sherry cask matured whisky with flavours of dried fruit and oak appeal, or do you prefer the sound of something lighter, honeyed, and with a hint of vanilla?

Take your time to check out some of the differences in flavours between the whiskies and settle on a few that sounds like your kind of dram. If you really can’t decide, then we recommend you start with something that is described as being a bit lighter, softer and smoother.

A classy glass – The glass you choose has a huge impact on the aroma and taste of a whisky, and if you’re looking to get the best out of your dram, the glasses that Saikou serve in, from Glencairn of Scotland, are by far the best. If you prefer a straight sided tumbler with ice, that’s fine too, but if you want to appreciate the finer aromas and flavours, have a go with one of these small but specially designed glasses.

Drink with your eyes - Pay attention to the colour of your dram - the natural colour of whisky ranges from a very pale yellow through to a deep golden hue and even further towards a dark rich mahogany colour and almost anything in-between. This colour solely comes from the cask this whisky has matured in as all whiskies start life as crystal clear spirit.

Look at the body – Carefully swirl your whisky in the glass and look at the way it clings to the inside – is it an oily, viscous whisky that has lots of body? A dram that has this oily look to it is going to have a lovely big mouth coating texture to it, something we all look for in a good whisky.

The nose knows – Your nose is capable of detecting hundreds of different aromas and scents and taking your time to gently smell and inspect your whisky can be incredibly rewarding. Be careful not to stick your nose too far in the glass or breathe in too heavily as the alcohol can easily overwhelm, and remember to back off a bit and take a pause between each breath. If at any time you find the whisky has an overwhelming or prickly alcoholic tone to it, just add a couple of drops of water at a time until this goes away.

Every time you breathe in, have a think about what you smell – does it remind of you anything in particular like dried fruit, or chocolate, or vanilla? Don’t worry too much about trying to name each individual smell, or trying to match them up to a tasting note – it’s all about what you smell and the enjoyment you get from it.

A taste o’ nectar – By now you’re possibly drooling into your glass, so it’s time to take a sip. On your first sip, get a feel for your dram – if it is too hot and alcohol dominant, try adding a couple of drops of water to soften it. When you have a good dram in your mouth, it pays to once again, take your time and slowly move it around covering your whole tongue and mouth. Think about the flavours that build up and change as you move it around on your tongue. We would recommend you try holding the whisky in your mouth for at least a couple of seconds to get the most out of it, and some people will even hold it for 1 second for every year of the whiskies age.  This is where the whole thing comes together and after you’ve swallowed, sit back, relax and have a wee ponder.

The Finish - After a while, once the immediate flavours subside, you will be left with lingering aftertaste or ‘finish’. The finish in a good whisky is about the flavours that you’re left with, but it is also about the length of time that the dram stays with you - a long and interesting finish that evolves over time is the hallmark of a good single malt Scotch whisky, and something we hope that you are now experiencing.

At the end of the day, there is no right or wrong when it comes to drinking whisky, so feel free to take a wee bit of this advice and remember that it is not always about the dram you drink, but the company that you keep.

Slàinte mhòr!  (pronounced ‘slahn-cha voor’, which means ‘great health’ in Gaelic)
The team at Whisky Galore

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