Stop! Before you slosh all that Coke or ginger ale into your whisky, ask yourself; ‘Have I ever actually tasted this without a mixer?’ And illicit swigs from Dad’s liquor cabinet when you were 12 don’t count. If the answer is ‘no’ then it’s definitely time for you to get your classy on and organise a whisky tasting session for yourself and whatever like-minded souls you can find. Because, like any form of drinking, whisky tasting is best done in company and has the added benefits of cost sharing as everyone can bring along a different bottle to try. Not that you will drink it all in one go, of course, as this is a tasting session, NOT a booze up.
And relax! You don’t need to know anything at all about whisky to do this – there is no exam at the end, this is purely an experiential exercise. A chance to actually investigate the stuff you normally pour into your head without thinking and who knows, you might even have a lifechanging moment and go boldly mixer-less into the future.
But, if your attitude to alcohol can easily be summed up in the subsequent equation:
Booze + You ≠ Classy
Then you may need to keep the following handy hints at your elbow throughout your session:
- Look at and smell your whisky first
Simon & Garfunkel, Cheese & Onion, Harry & Meghan – some partnerships are simply greater than the sum of their parts. It’s the same with our senses as Taste by itself is feeble without Sight and especially Smell around to help it out. So before you tip any whisky down your throat, make sure you check out its colour and clarity first – then get your snout in there for a whiff. Doing this will heighten your perception of its flavour – arguably by around 80%.
The idea here is savour the flavour, so think of whisky tasting like a kiss. You don’t kiss your grandmother the same way you snog a drunken wench in the back room of a wild party – well, I don’t anyway. And if it grosses you out to even consider that – so be it. Classiness is the goal here and genteel sipping will get you there, skulling will not.
Not only do you have taste buds on your tongue but they’re also on the roof of your mouth, in your cheeks and down your throat. So don’t leave any hanging, swish that whisky around so they all get a piece. I also like to feel a whisky’s texture from under my tongue.
- Add water or ice
Contrary to what you may have heard, it is NOT a capital offence to dilute your whisky. In some cases, the addition of water allows flavours and aromas you wouldn’t otherwise be aware of, to be released. Try the whisky both with and without water to clock the difference.
- Compare notes
Share your innermost feelings about each whisky with your friends – is it woody, fruity, smoky, hot or smooth? Don’t be afraid to sound like a dick – this is the point of it all! It also has an ulterior motive because hopefully your mates won’t like the one you really do, so you can get to keep that bottle for yourself!
- Get smashed
Oh, it’s such a bad look – as you’re trying to be classy here! In your drunken haze, you might think you’re doing Six60 justice by singing their songs acapella, but to the stone cold sober casual observer nearby (or worse; watching on Tik Tok!) will NOT think you’re classy. Trust me, they won’t. So, unless you want a lifetime of taunting about your karaoke skills every time you go to a bar or even walk past a whisky poster, eat something first and taste in extreme moderation.
- Use a wine glass
Uh, you don’t use Mum’s Holden Barina for burnouts – well, maybe you did when you were 16 – so why would you taste whisky from a champagne flute? Or even a jam jar – which I’ve seen done before. True story! Yes, yes, jam jars may have wide mouths for fumes to dissipate and blah, blah – but classy? Not. At all. So, for a whisky tasting why not use, hmmm… how about a whisky glass? Just a thought.
- Use a mixer
You are trying to decipher the whisky’s attributes not disguise them. Save your whisky & drys for the pool hall.
- Use an ‘e’ in ‘Whisky’
Unless it’s from Ireland. Why? No one knows or cares, but knowing the difference apparently is classy. NB: You don’t need to pronounce the extra ‘e’ in Irish whiskey neither.