First of all, relax. You’re not going to mess up when it comes to putting a liquid in a glass and then drinking it. You do it all the time.
“The question I am asked repeatedly, even from experienced whisky drinkers, is ‘how do you drink whisky?’, and the answer is “Any way you enjoy it”. In a cocktail, neat, water, ice, however you like. There’s no mystery to a tasting.”
Don’t believe the hype. Not all whisky has to be harsh and smoky.
“The Glenlivet, for example, is a classic Speyside single malt – abundant in fruit, a slight toffee sweetness, and that’s coming from the cask. I would describe it as the sweetness of cutting a pineapple.”
No, there isn’t really pineapple in there.
“There’s a real complexity in the process at the grain’s fermentation stage, when the yeast digests the sugars to make alcohol. That’s where the flavour molecules first appear. That’s where you first get the “apple” and the “pear”.”
Your sense of smell has a memory. A pretty specific one.
“None of our distillers or master blenders work from a recipe. Everything they do is about memory. They’ve got this instant recall because they’re nosing these whiskys every single day. It’s fantastic.”
A Japanese brand might have taken the most recent title for the world’s best single-malt whisky, but Scotch isn’t going anywhere.
“Scotch is still by far the largest whisky market in the world. It’s got the weight of history behind it, and that gives you authenticity. The market for single malt is growing at a fantastic rate. And with that growth comes a thirst for knowledge.”
Mixing an 18-year-old Scotch with Coke might get you beaten out of a Scottish pub, but if you’re a real player, you do need just a little bit of water.
“If you really want to appreciate the intricacies of a whisky, water is absolutely critical. Just add a splash, enough to just cut the alcohol and reveal all the elements that come from fermentation, from distillation, from maturation.”
No, you’re not a boor. Ice is also fine.
“In a hot climate like India, it’s perfectly alright to drop a couple of ice cubes into your drink.”
Chill. No one’s going to laugh at you for drinking blended Scotch.
“There are people who enjoy blends as much as single malts, and they enjoy it for the same reasons: the flavour profile, the historical context; and they enjoy it because it’s equally crafted… In a blind taste-test, I will line up three single malts and a blended scotch and ask the audience to identify the blend; and almost always, they can’t.”