Here’s some­thing to chew on

Mas­ter dis­tiller Mark Lit­tler ex­plains the finer points of tast­ing whisky

Isis Town and Country - - Life | Easy Eating -

I RE­CENTLY at­tended a very pri­vate, very ex­clu­sive whisky event at one of the coun­try’s most spec­tac­u­lar and dis­crete re­sorts.

I was there with sev­eral of my whisky-pro­duc­ing col­leagues, each of us charged with pre­sent­ing a se­lec­tion of our finest sin­gle malts to a group who had paid con­sid­er­able money for the priv­i­lege of tast­ing and ap­pre­ci­at­ing whiskies of the world.

It was dur­ing a min­gling ses­sion at this event, I was asked the ques­tion: “How does one ac­tu­ally ap­pre­ci­ate a good whisky?”

It was an in­ter­est­ing ques­tion, and while the re­sponse came quite nat­u­rally for me, it got me think­ing about all those thou­sands of con­sumers out there who love their whisky and would love to have greater in­sight into how one truly ap­pre­ci­ates a fine sin­gle malt.

Ap­pre­ci­at­ing a good whisky comes mostly with ex­pe­ri­ence and does not nec­es­sar­ily mean the whisky you are ap­pre­ci­at­ing is to your per­sonal lik­ing.

As­tute whisky judges will be able to dis­cern be­tween an ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the whisky they are sam­pling and the per­sonal sen­sory at­tributes they ex­tract from it. Ev­ery­one has dif­fer­ent tastes; it’s why our world of­fers so much va­ri­ety, and sin­gle-malt craft­ing is no dif­fer­ent.

Here are a few tips to help you be­come more ap­pre­cia­tive of your whisky – from a sin­gle-malt maker’s view­point.

Mark Lit­tler’s tips for ap­pre­ci­at­ing whisky

Be at­tracted to the over­all pre­sen­ta­tion and shelf pres­ence. Study the con­tent de­tails and tast­ing notes on the pack­ag­ing. In this case you are look­ing for the words sin­gle malt as you are buy­ing the purest form of whisky, crafted from a sin­gle grain type – malted bar­ley.

Look at the colour of the whisky – is it re­flec­tive of the taste pro­file or age on of­fer? Crisp, golden hues or rich trea­cle tones might be words that spring to mind when eye­ing off a drop.

The best whiskies have no added colour­ing; their ton­ing and flavour pro­files are de­rived purely from the grain and the tim­ber casks used for mat­u­ra­tion.

When tack­ling the sub­ject mat­ter, al­ways use a good qual­ity whisky glass – it re­ally does make a dif­fer­ence.

A good sin­gle malt can be en­joyed neat and a lit­tle wa­ter is quite ac­cept­able (don’t even men­tion car­bon­ated ac­com­pa­ni­ments, which are pure heresy!).

Al­ways nose the whisky be­fore tast­ing it. Taste only serves to con­firm what the nose has al­ready in­formed. A gen­tle swirl of the glass will help this process. Be care­ful not to in­hale too deeply; some high ABV spir­its can pack a punch. Place the glass to your nose and relax. It’s think­ing time.

Now for the all-im­por­tant tast­ing. Take a mod­est sip of the spirit and hold it in your mouth. Count to 10 and let it slide down.

Once it’s gone, be­gin to chew. Yes chew – mas­ti­cate, just for a few mo­ments.

Then wait, and ap­pre­ci­ate. The fin­ish, or af­ter­taste, should linger on the palate as the spirit warms you from in­side and re­veals its fi­nal se­crets. Did it de­liver a long fin­ish? Was it dry or smooth and did it re­in­force what the nose had ear­lier promised?

The best tast­ings are those shared with friends, es­pe­cially if ev­ery­one is up for a chew. You can com­pare dif­fer­ent sin­gle malts, dis­cuss them, rate them, but most of all en­joy the ex­pe­ri­ence and de­velop your own ap­pre­ci­a­tion of what con­sti­tutes a good sin­gle-malt whisky.

Last but not least, al­ways drink re­spon­si­bly.

Mark Lit­tler is mas­ter dis­tiller at Hel­ly­ers Road Dis­tillery, Tas­ma­nia. www.helly­er­sroad­dis­


PLENTY TO PON­DER: Mas­ter dis­tiller Mark Lit­tler shares his tips for ap­pre­ci­at­ing whisky.

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