Photography by Joshua Rappeneker

Whisky for Beginners – A Gentlemen’s Guide to Whisky Tasting

I proudly consider myself being a part of that particular group of people who do not function well in the morning. All too frequently and yet unintentionally, I re-enact The Walking Dead when finding my way to work through morning’s hell called rush hour.

My employer’s best investment – at least in my humble opinion – is our office’s coffee machine. Oh boy and let me tell ya, the moment when my caffeine-deprived body goes into the kitchen and hits the espresso button… that’s when my lights go on and my system reboots. Interestingly though, I have recently met a colleague whose response to “Would you like a coffee?” has been “I am good thanks. I don’t drink coffee.”

Seriously? There are people who don’t enjoy coffee moments? Well, that’s when I started reflecting upon my path of reckless caffeine addiction and I remembered that there has been a time when, in fact, I didn’t enjoy coffee either. However, I do not recall why – back in the day – I have forced myself drinking something I didn’t enjoy very much. I suppose when being a teenager, drinking coffee has been part of growing up.

So I was in quite a receptive state when I saw Flaviar’s TV commercial. Flaviar is a liquor sampling subscription service that lets you discover the world of fine spirits. I agreed to their mission statement and thought to myself: “Yes! I am not going to mix whisky with soda anymore. I am going to drink whisky like a man!”

Easier said than done. Similar to wine tasting, there seems to be a science around how to drink whisky properly. However, here is a brief guide to introduce you to drinking whisky like a Gentleman.

Gentlemen’s Guide to Whisky Tasting

Step 1 – The Glass

The first step is to get yourself the right glass.  Out of question, it looks incredibly manly to sit in a leather armchair and to swill whisky around in a giant crystal tumbler, but experts consider this being as good as a plastic cup in terms flavour. Although it’s not a crime using a standard tumbler, many experts recommend using a Glencairn glass. This allows the whisky to be swirled, gives it room to breath and concentrates the aromas at the neck of the glass.

Step 2 – The Scent

Your nose plays important part of assessing a whisky as it will reveal more to your olfactory system than to your palate. Thus, experts believe that tasting is simply to confirm what your nose has already told you. Swirl the whisky around to release the aromas and then carefully take a sniff. However, beware not to shove your nose too deeply into the glass. You don’t need to inhale hard or you’ll just shock your nostrils with the alcohol. Do this two or three times and then let your mind wander down memory lane! Scents are often linked to the memories we have: leather, wood, and mustiness might remind you of your father; dried fruits, sultanas, and port might bring back last Christmas’ Eve; salt, smoke, and seaweed might bring back a day at the beach.

Step 3 – The Palate

Now it’s on to tasting the actual whisky. Take a small amount into your mouth, let it sit on your tongue, and then “chew” the whisky a little. Is it soft and rolling or hot and immediate?  Do you pick up any sweetness or the lack of? Then swallow and see how it finishes. Is there a definite beginning, middle and end to this story?

Step 4 – Water

Once you’ve tasted the whisky, add a little H2O.  Just a few drops will open up a whisky, revealing more of its distinct aromas and flavours. How much water to add depends on personal preference but beware: once it’s drowned, you can’t add more whisky to balance it back out. 

Step 5 – Enjoy

Get your friends round  and compare your impressions with them. Becoming a whisky drinker takes time, a little work, and a bit of tongue maturity, but don’t be encouraged by your first encounter with the golden elixir. Upon returning a second and third time, you will slowly begin to get a sense of what makes whisky so appealing and enjoyable.

Gentlemen's Guide to Whisky Tasting

This article originally appeared on HisUrbanEsprit.com.com.

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