Is it whisky, whiskey or scotch? ‘Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn’ from the 1939 film Gone with the Wind was an answer that came to my ignorant mind when I was recently asked.
However, much is misunderstood about this particular type of alcohol and while we might know a lot more about wines and beers, there is still an enigma that surrounds this most distinguished of spirits.
My journey to unravel the mystery of this liquid gold took me to the Dalmore Distillery in Scotland where I asked Richard Paterson, Master Blender, of which there are only a few in the world, to explain how to enjoy a glass or two of Scotland’s largest export.
He starts by explaining to me that scotch is whisky from Scotland. Now that I knew the difference we could get down to the real issue at hand of learning how to enjoy a glass of whiskey or maybe two. Or so I thought.
Just like the tease of a first date Richard would not let me drink right away. We have to have the right glass. Not any glass but a glass that is called copitas which looks like the lovechild between a wine glass and a snifter.
Then comes the pour and the swirl. Just when I thought I was ready to moisten my parched lips, Richard swirls this golden liquid and masterfully throws it away! Unmentionable thoughts came to mind but he eloquently explained that this was to get rid of all the chemicals that were in the glass. Then came the next pour but before I could put my lip for a sip, he puts his nose in the glass! To add insult to injury he repeats this very awkward and socially questionable act, four times in slow succession.
Apparently, the first stage in enjoying a whiskey is its aroma. Smell what you are about to taste. Thankfully, once that was over we could get down to the nitty gritty of tasting but herein lies another test of patience.
Upon entering the mouth, the whiskey has to stay in the palate for at least fifteen to twenty seconds balancing between your upper palate, lower palate and then everywhere else in your mouth.
Finally the swallow and then take a deep breath. Repeat again. Richard explains that at this point my mouth will start to detect a succession of flavors marching in my mouth. A moment’s pause and by golly! Richard is right. Hints of citrus, crushed almonds, spicy cinnamon and aromatic vanilla start to surface in the mouth, almost by magic. I interviewed Richard and you must watch a visual demonstration from one of the world’s select Master Blenders of scotch whisky click the link below.