Tease all your senses with a good single malt
Single malt Scotch whisky is one of the world’s most renowned types of spirits and the best overall ratings in world spirits competition are often won by scotch. Such a storied and distinguished drink can be a bit intimidating for neophytes. Whenever tasting strong spirits, there is also the challenge of overcoming the strong alcohol taste to discover the subtle nuances a drink can offer.
Hopefully, this article can help you uncover all a good single malt scotch whisky has to offer and appreciate the subtleties it can offer.
I strongly believe that to properly enjoy a nice scotch, you have to make it an experience for all five of your senses.
The scotch experience can start even before pouring any liquid into your glass. Take time to look at the bottle. Taking a few moments to read the label can give you hints as to the kind of flavours and aromas you might encounter later on.
Once you've poured some of the scotch into your glass, move it around in the glass and observe its color and its texture. Does it stick to the surface of the glass? This is usually a sign of age for a whisky. Is the color like pale gold, honey or more like caramel? Even though some distilleries will add coloring additives to their scotch, usually a darker hue will mean an older drink or one that was aged in different types of casks.
Of course when talking about tasting something, hearing is not the sense that we first think about. That said there is that distinct pop that the cork can make when opening a good bottle that somehow prepares me for the coming experience. Then there is the sound made by pouring the drink in the glass.
If you use either ice cubes or whisky stones to chill your drink, the sound they can make when you move your glass while looking at it or smelling your whisky is also a distinctive sound that is part of both a good pub atmosphere and a nice home tasting between friends.
Take many deep breaths trying to grasp all of the subtleties of the aromas. The most obvious odours you will most often recognize are smoke and peat, but if you take time to take it all in, and once your nose becomes better train you will realise how much variations you can find in the aromas of a whisky when comparing it to another. Herbs, smoke, wood, malt, vanilla, caramel, walnuts and spices are only a subset of all the nuances that can be found in good single malt Scotch whisky.
Take the time to familiarise yourself with them, learn to discover them.
That one sounds obvious doesn’t it? And yet, it all ties in to all your other senses. If you take time to let your sip roll over your tongue, making sure all your taste buds have a chance to help you uncover the different flavours, you will discover that good single malt has much to give beyond the peat and strong alcohol taste. Just like with the smells, the tastes can be deep and varied.
Once you’re done with your initial taste, let a bit of air in your mouth while you swallow. This will help you uncover the aftertaste, called the finish, which often has nice contrasting tones than what you tasted a few moments ago.
No, don’t worry. I won’t make you put your fingers into your glass! Did you think that only your hands and feet could feel tactile experiences? While you are going through all steps of your tasting, take the time to feel the weight of the glass in your hand. If you chill your whisky with ice or whisky stones, feel the chill through the glass. When you take your first sip, feel that distinctive “burn” on your tongue and in your throat. Take the time to roll the drink on your tongue, feeling it move in your mouth.
I hope this simple article will convince you that drinking a good single malt scotch can be a complete sensual experience.