What does an apple taste like? Take a moment and really think about it. Is it tangy, is it sweet, is it sour? Think about the last apple you had, was it a golden delicious, a granny smith, a gala? Was it juicy, was it dry, what color was it?
What ever it was there was something about the experience that made you remember it. We are all consumers of flavor but few of us would consider ourselves to be connoisseurs. That being said we can all enjoy the taste of a ripe apple. Whisky can be the same; there are distinct notes and flavors, colors and smells that you don’t have to be an expert to enjoy. The experience of having a dram of whisky is like biting into a good apple. Once you find the right one it is a sensation worth remembering.
I always struggle when trying to describe the taste of whisky. In an attempt to decode the complex taste of whiskey I try to think of each whisky as having a character, a personality that is as versatile and individual as people can be. I once heard a bottle of wine described as the kind of drink that comes up behind you and whispers in your ear, ‘I knew your grandfather’. It true that each whisky has a story to tell, of the elements that formed its flavor over its lifetime. Distillers talked about the ‘relationship’ between the spirit and the wood it is matured in and at the end of the day no two casks of whisky are alike. The ones you will remember will always be more than the sum of their parts.
Some whiskies are direct with the kind of no nonsense flavor you can’t help but respect. Some are subtle and sophisticated and others can take some getting used to. Then there are a few drams you can’t help but be seduced by.
The two of the biggest misconception about whisky are that it tastes horrible and is solely meant to get drunk on or that it is exclusive, the kind of drink bankers, lawyers and politicians sip in dimly light rooms filled with cigar smoke. I aim to make the case that whisky is both while simultaneously being none of the above. By being a highly versatile drink that manages to hold both extremes and appeal to everything in between whisky has earned an iconic status. There is so much more to the Scotch whisky experience than harsh fumes or gastronomic comparisons. There is the identity of a nation, stories of people and places beyond the shores of Scotland.
‘Whisky is the greatest drink in the world – the stuff of legends, of healing, of friendship and companionship. In old Gaelic it was literally ‘the water of life’. No other spirit offers such finesse, such elegance, such complexity or such value. With all the excellent choices available, no one should settle for a whisky they don’t enjoy. It just starts with knowing what is out there.’ - John Lamond, Master of Malt and author of several books.
Whisky itself is highly individual and the experience can be very personal. Like a good old friend it is worth the time you put into finding what suits you and what you enjoy.
My aim in writing this blog is to offer a narrative of the Scotch whisky experience, to share my enthusiasm and to start talking about what is ‘out there’.