A Beginner’s Guide to Drinking Whisky
The whisky community is a passionate one - and for good reason! Aside from the numerous health benefits that the golden dram offers, whisky is a drink that carries a great heritage. It is a complex potion - and each sip takes the drinker on a flavoursome, and quite often surprising journey.
New to drinking whisky and don’t know where to begin? Don’t worry! We’ve compiled a beginner’s guide to drinking whisky to get you started!
Don’t Gulp It Down
First things first - drinking whisky is an experience that should be enjoyed with plenty of time to spare. It can be tempting to gulp down a fiery whisky to avoid the “burn” when trying whisky for the first time. This is not only a massive waste, but not taking the time to truly appreciate the aromas and flavours of your dram robs you of a sensory delight!
If you’re finding the sting of alcohol a little too much to palate to begin with, try adding a few drops of water to dilute the burn. Many whisky enthusiasts will despair at the thought of adding water to a great single malt, however it takes time for your palate to adjust to the strength of whisky and many experts actually believe a little water with the right malt can, in fact, bring out more of the flavour.
Not sure about how much water to add? Less is definitely more. Some swear by a breakdown of 1/4 water, 3/4 whisky in a glass, and others by one or two drops from a straw or a pipette - it’s completely down to personal preference. However, less is often more - so be frugal when adding your water - you can always add more, but if you ruin a dram with too much water, there’s absolutely no saving it!
Ice, Ice, Maybe?
Adding ice to your drink is a great source of contention for whisky enthusiasts. When adding ice to your glass, the chill is known to mute certain flavours, or change the general taste of your chosen whisky. Nevertheless, for some, a chilled drink is far more palatable than a room temperature one.
However, much like adding too much water at the get go, it is also worth bearing in mind that as your ice melts, your dram may end up too diluted.
If you’re worried about dilution, but simply can’t do without a chilled drink, then whisky stones may be the invention for you! Made of soapstone, these solid cubes can be chilled in your home freezer and then added to your drink without directly altering the taste (out with the natural chill.) The downside is they require a little upkeep as does any other kitchen implement - cleaning, drying and the occasional defrost if not used often.
Despite what many whisky aficionados may say about the negative effects of adding ice or whisky stones to your dram, it is always a personal choice - and there are plenty of ice-drinkers out there to prove it! Try with and without - you may find yourself building up to an ice-free dram as your palate develops.
Let it Breathe
One of the most enjoyable aspects of the experience of drinking whisky doesn’t actually come from tasting the dram itself - it comes from taking in the aroma.
Scent plays a huge part in the final taste - and breathing in the scent of your whisky is great way to identify some of the flavours of the whisky without the dreaded alcoholic burn! Identifying the tones and ingredients of your dram through smell will directly influence your tastebuds, so when it comes to actually sipping your drink, you’ll be able to make the connections - making for a much more immersive experience.
To ensure you’re able to take in the full aroma of your whisky, pour your dram into a wider tumbler - this gives the whisky “room to breathe” and allows you to properly take in the tones given off.
Spend time nosing your glass and fully explore what your dram has to offer. Every sniff has something different to offer! Don’t be surprised if the aroma changes the longer you nose your whisky!
Swot up with Whisky Tasting
The best way to begin drinking whisky is with a crash course in whisky tasting. Understanding the process of how whisky is made will help you to understand what flavours to look out for - and what better way to get started than some professional guidance?
Tutored tasting will help to kickstart your nosing and tasting technique - and afterwards you’ll know exactly what to look out for!