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1. Expertise are not required
There is no ignoring the fact that the world of whisk(e)y can sometimes be complicated. Single Malt? Blend? Pot Still? It can all be very confusing. However, you do not need to know everything about each and every distillery and style in order to enjoy the drink itself. In our experience, those who understand a little more about the whiskey they are drinking tend to garner more satisfaction from their drink, but there is no sense in concentrating so hard on how it was made that you fail to notice how it tastes (or if you even like it!). We would recommend starting with one style, taking in a bit of information about it, and continuing from there. A great way to do this without buying several bottles is to enjoy a night out at a good quality whiskey bar, where your barman can recommend different whiskeys to try by the glass. There are also plenty of whiskey-tasting events happening around Dublin at the moment, and these are excellent opportunities to compare and contrast multiple whiskies in one evening whilst picking up a little knowledge along the way.
2. You don’t need to drink Whiskey Neat in Order to Enjoy It
Now, we are not suggesting that you go out and purchase a 30 year-old vintage reserve and drink it with your favourite brand of cola or ginger ale. However, those that are entirely new to the world of whiskey may prefer to start with a whiskey cocktail in order to adapt to the new flavour profile. There are many great quality blended whiskies that work excellently with mixers or as part of a more complicated concoction. Even some of our most seasoned whiskey drinkers have been known to enjoy a whiskey cocktail or long drink on a staff night out! Check out a few suggestions here. There is also nothing wrong with adding a drop of water to your whiskey - in fact this is recommended in certain cases. Cask strength whiskey could be as strong as 60% alcohol and sometimes this strength overwhelms some of the more aromatic and fruity characteristics of the spirit. By adding a touch of water, new flavours are opened up, revealing another dimension to the whiskey’s profile. For this reason we suggest trying it neat first and then adding a few drops of water to see what else might be hiding there.
Our one tip would be to go easy on the ice, as too much can dilute its well-crafted flavours and make it too cold to appreciate.
3. There is a foolproof method to tasting (neat) whiskey
Whilst some whiskies do work great in cocktails and long drinks, whiskey is principally an individual spirit that has enjoyed many years of love, care and attention in order to develop a varied range of textures, aromas and flavours. Rest assured though, there is a process to tasting whiskey that is not half as scary as it seems:
Once you have selected a whiskey you wish to try, there is no need to rush into drinking it straight away. In doing so, the high alcohol and great intensity of flavours may be too overpowering and it will taste “too strong”. Make sure that you are tasting from a properly designed whiskey tasting glass – either a traditional Glencairn or the more modern Neat Glass are both developed to hold and focus the aromas in the malt. Take the time to behold the appearance of the spirit in the glass. Stick your nose right in and really try to pick out as many aromas as you can (it can sometimes take a few nosings to get passed the alcohol). Only at this stage is it time to take a small sip- hold and swirl the whiskey round your mouth before swallowing, and try to identify what elements are present both before (palate) and after (finish) you swallow.
4. There is Huge Variation
Do not rule out an entire style or region based on one or two brands that you have tried. Also, don’t be afraid to admit if you don’t like something. Try to identify specifically what it is about that particular whiskey that you do not like. Is it the aromas? Is it too peaty? Is it how the spirit feels in your mouth? These things all contribute to the individual profile of a whisk(e)y, and there will be plenty of other styles out there that don’t contain the components that are unsuitable to your palate. Scottish Whiskey is a prime example of this: people often tell us that they don’t like any Scottish whiskey, but what they mean is that they do not like heavily peated whiskies. There are many examples of Scottish distilleries producing malts that contain no peat at all: Glengoyne, Tomatin and Auchentoshan to name but a few. These Scottish malts stand in stark contrast to heavily peated styles of whiskey such as Ardbeg or Lagauvulin. Of course Irish whiskey will always be our favourite, but we also love to mix things up with Scotch, American and Japanese styles!
5. It’s Only Whiskey
At the end of the day- it’s only whiskey, a drink like any other. Open a bottle with friends, take a sip, and let the spirit work its magic. After all, it’s the water of life!