What’s interesting over the years of whisky tasting, is the techniques and methods recommended to you.
Joe Hughes, who previously worked for Morrison Bowmore, would have me furiously rubbing whisky between my hands and inhaling the evaporating spirit to give my nose and palate the ‘essence’ of the spirit I was about to try, whereas Richard ‘The Nose’ Paterson will have you introducing yourself to a whisky as you would a beautiful woman: an initial introductory hello, a repeat, and then further conversations (!).
Everyone seems to have a slight variance on what and how. Warming the glass in your hand, covering the top, nose in (but not too far), admiring colour, observing legs – all of this before actually tasting it.
What is consistent though, is the fact that we’re not here to ‘down in one’. That’s no way to appreciate whisky, but often where people go so wrong – taking too much on the palate at once, which will of course burn and have you reaching for your beer to wash it all down, or a glass of water.
For the tips and advice you get, there is often very good method to the madness. Plus years and years of practice..! It’s common knowledge that different parts of the tongue recognises different tastes. Think about it next time you’re eating or drinking. Where does a citrus fruit make your tongue come alive compared to something bitter, like coffee? What about spices – a curry, pepper, and so on..? Is it the back, the side or the top or the tip of your tongue?
There is also the visual side too – the colour for a start. Have you ever held up a young spirit next to a mature one? This one’s obvious (just one glance at new-make shows no wood influence, but compare to a sherried 25 year old..). Throw into the equasion cask use. Ie; first fill and third fill.. A first fill cask has so much life and influence from it’s previous occupier, but by third fill time, it could be 30/40 years old and starting to wane. You can understand by casks are charred between fills now..
And what about the legs? Rolling mountains compared to steep peaks. Slow versus fast…?
The list could go on.
So there you go, just a few thoughts from a novice. Get a real expert on the case though – and you may never get away.
Check out this YouTube clip of Richard Paterson showing someone the way to drink a blended whisky.