We whisk away some of the popular myths that you have heard about whisky, since the time you got your first dram, which we suspect must have been neat. Of course, a real man drinks dark single malts, without a touch of adulteration. Really? Let’s sip through.
Make it neat please
We will say it as neatly as we can. The holiness of immaculate spirit is overrated. The only way to drink whisky is the way you enjoy it. Don’t let the neat purists get to you. Your personal preference should be the sole arbiter of how you drink your dram. If drinking the whisky neat leaves your throat assaulted, there’s absolutely no need to punish yourself. The true value of a serve is in the pleasure that you derive from it. In fact, a splash of water unlocks the aromas, enabling you savour your dram further. For some drinkers, the water addition reduces the sting, allowing them to appreciate the delicate nuances of the drink that they might otherwise miss while recovering from a harsh downing of the drink. Experiment and understand what works for your palate. Your tongue and nose are built to facilitate you with an entire range of sensorial experiences, so free your mind and flirt unabashedly with your serve as well as senses. Add soda, water, ginger or better still, try your hand at a cocktail, but get the most out of your drinking experience.
Women should stick to Vodka. Whisky is for men
About that, well, we could turn into bra-burners of the most zealous kind. But to keep it civil and courteous, just a few names. Rachael Barrie, Master Blender, Morrison Bowmore, 22 years into this craft, handles three renowned distilleries in Scotland. Stephanie Macleod, only the 7th person, as the Master Blender in the 160 years of the iconic House of Dewar’s. Kirsteen Campbell, 36, a rather young Master Blender at Cutty Sark. Maureen Robinson, Diageo, who blends some of the most well known spirits around the world starting from the Talisker Storm to the Singleton Range. These women, and quite a few others are master blenders, the absolute authorities in the whisky industry. Try telling them that whisky is a man’s domain, and you might be permanently blacklisted from some of your favourite brands!
Whisky is a versatile liquor, with an unimaginable diversity across brands, varietals, and flavours. There is something for every palate, from every region, gender, and cultures. The only bias whisky has is for unique production process, and that gives each whisky its signature.
Age brings wisdom. And quality
This could make Socrates and Plato sit up all night, assuming the former’s drink will not leave him dead. Perhaps, one of the most argued whisky topics is the debate whether aged whiskies are better than their younger counterparts. It is without doubt that most whiskies benefit considerably from extra years spent in the woods. However, during maturation ageing is not the only parameter that defines the whisky’s character. The consummate reactions between the spirit and the oak lend surprising new dimensions to the spirit. There is also an upper limit to how long a spirit can age. A Methuselah-old whisky is overpowered by flavours coming from the wood, and may start to lose some of the intricacies. Having said that, many consumers don’t seem to mind the huge price for the promise of the aged and the rare. Time often brings a false sense of maturity, to men, and their malts.
Whisky is a Grandpa's Fix
The image of an old retired gentleman with a single malt and cigar, by the firewood, reading a hardbound book on a big leather couch. Oh so enduring! May we add a mantle lined with old leather bound classics too? Whisky is a spirit associated with class and glamour. But, it is a drink as much for the young as for the old.
Around the world, distilleries and blenders are experimenting with blends and casks, and launching interesting varietals that appeal to those looking for new tastes and experiences. Mixologists are spearheading the innovation, moving from traditional mixes to alloying radical blends. So if you are 26 and enjoying your dram, be assured you are not an exception. Unless you are also reading a hardbound Moby Dick.
Single Malt whiskies are better than blended whiskies
If you were to be asked, are smart phones better than tablets, how would you react? You will probably snigger, as both these devices have very different utilities and user experi-ence. Now, why compare blends and malts? These two comprise two different categories, and their consumption differs vastly in terms of palate and occasion. Blending is a pristine art form that requires a deep understanding of the organic complexities of different malts as well as the careful process of slewing select ones to create a masterpiece blend. The expert blender retains the original spirit flavour, and yet manages to find a harmony by honing the overt flavours. The result is a distinctly expressive blend with a rich body. It would be criminal to dismiss connoisseurs of blended whisky when the process is one requiring such mastery and creativity.
The Darker, the Better
Whisky is a nuanced indulgence. And like every indulgence, preferences work here too. That said, tall, dark and handsome might work as a thumb rule when it comes to men, but not for their drinks. Many brands use flavourless spirit and caramel to darken their products, so unless you are judging a whisky for its other senses of taste and aromas, the ambers and the gold only add fancy adjectives to your whisky, meaning little in character. But in tandem with the above parameters, the colour makes a potent pointer to the whisky's quality.
Peat around the bush
Peat is where the whisky democracy comes alive. Every aficionado has an opinion. One of the most frequently used phrases in whisky appreciation, the peat flavour is a giveaway of the geography the whisky comes from, along with duration of time the barley is exposed to peat fires, the level of phenols, to name a few. Peat has had a long association with whisky distillation, and makes for an interesting history read. If the taste of an overtly peaty demon has left you squirming in the past, we request you to not make up your mind. The smokiness, and the earthiness has many variations, and between the light, sweet, dry, fruity and malty variants, you will find your favourite adjective soon enough!