The Finesse of Scotch Whisky
Having scotch is an experience like no other. Here are few pointers that will help you understand this sensory journey.
When you check the appearance of the whisky in a glass, what you're really looking at is its colour, consistency and clarity. Whisky draws its colour from the cask in which it matures.?American oak lends shades of yellow-gold; European oak, shades of amber/brown. To judge consistency, observe the 'legs' which form and dribble when you swirl a little spirit in the glass. Thin, fast-running legs indicate a thin spirit, often of high strength; fat, slow moving ones a dense spirit. The final aspect of 'Appearance' only takes place when you add water. If the whisky goes very slightly hazy, it means it has not been chill-filtered or polished.
Did you know that your nose is just as important as your mouth, when it comes to tasting Scotch Whisky? This is why whisky 'tastings' are commonly called 'nosings'; performed by 'noses' in a 'nosing room'. Even the aroma of whisky is often called its 'nose'. So, how do you do it? Swirl the spirit in the glass (without adding water), warming it in the palm of your hand if it is cold. Take a cautious sniff to absorb the aroma. Be liberal with your imagination: there is no 'correct' language to describe aromas in whisky. Now add a little water – at least enough to take away any prickle; some whiskies take more water than others – and nose the whisky again. Note how the aroma has changed, opened up, become more complex.
Take a large enough mouthful to coat your tongue. Hold it first in the front of your mouth, then allow it to slide across your tongue and engage the taste buds there and on your soft palate, before swallowing or spitting it out. Now try to determine the texture of your whisky – soft (smooth, gentle), mouth coating (creamy, oily, dense), mouth-warming (spirity, hot), mouth furring (astringent, puckering), spritzich (fizzing on the tongue)? Take another sip. Chew it a bit, and swirl it about with your tongue for the measure of sweetness (picked up on the front part of your tongue), acidity or sourness (on the tongue's upper edges), saltiness (on the sides of the tongue) and bitterness or dryness (at the back) as it slides over. Most likely you will find all four 'primary tastes', but in varying degrees. When you swallow, take note of how long the sensation and lingering flavour of the whisky remains. This is the 'finish', and is measured 'short', 'medium' or 'long'. Very old whiskies can linger for hours. 'Enjoy whisky as you like' – on the rocks, straight, with a mixer – but for full appreciation, you don’t add ice, and you do add water.