How To Not Be Basic When You’re Talking About Whisky

Contributor: Adam Bozzetto

The world of whisky is large, daunting and often confusing. Nose, palate, finish, length, cask and age are all words that come up when talking and tasting whisky and it can be tough to get your head around them. If you don’t want to sound basic when you’re chatting whisky, here are a few tips so you can keep up with your mates – and maybe even school them – at the bar.

1. There’s no need to only go for single malts.

Single malts aren’t necessary better. They’re the more ‘pure’ form of whisky you get straight from the barrel (often with some extra water added, otherwise it would be ‘cask strength’.)

There is romance in single malts and it’s a little bit of an art-form, requiring a great craftsman and a great blend to get right. On the other hand, a blended whisky (which is a combinations of single malt whiskies and grain whiskies) has balance that is meant to create a well-rounded spirit. They’re definitely worth trying too!

2. Taste it like wine.

Tasting whisky is a bit like tasting wine.

Swirl then nose, wait a few seconds, do two more swirls then nose again. You will get more notes on the second nose. Drink your whisky and, if you feel inclined, swish it around your mouth.

Pro-tip on that last point: be careful as – of course – the alcohol is strong, and you don’t want to end up coughing. That would be embarrassing.

3. Don’t choose your whisky based on price and age.

The ageing process affects whisky in many different ways. Most of the time the effects are positive, but it really depends on climate, the raw spirit itself, and the cask it was stored in.

For example, in the case of the Japanese whisky Nikka Taketsuru, the 17-year-old often beats the 21-year-old version at the World Whiskies Awards. Who are we to tell the whisky judges they’re wrong?

4. Hold the ice.

Look, you’re welcome to enjoy whisky any way you like. But if you have it on the rocks, the cold temperature of the ice can suppress its aroma and flavour.

Instead, try adding a small amount of room temperature water, which aids in opening up whisky’s amazing flavour profiles.

5. When asked what you normally go for, don’t say ‘smooth’.

I’ll be brutally honest: saying your favourite kind of whisky is ‘smooth’ is pretty basic.

Flavours can be broken down into million different categories and descriptions – let’s narrow it down to a few. Light and floral, fruity and spicy, rich and rounded, and full bodied and smoky/peaty. Try them on for size.

If you want to go a bit deeper you could mention what type of cask you like it aged in. The main ones are Sherry (this is typically sweet and fruity, known as a Sherry Bomb), Port (a bit like a Christmas cake, if that makes sense) and Bourbon (vanilla and caramelly).

This is a very simple breakdown, but it should be enough to get you started.

6. Talk about the story, not about the price.

This is most important: people who love whisky love whisky, whether it’s $100 a bottle or $100,000.

If you want to know more about a certain drop, ask for its story. That’ll always be more interesting than how much it was purchased for.

Hey Sydney – are you keen for a rare, unique whisky tasting experience? Adam Bozzetto – aka Mita Whisky – has obtained some tasty drop from White Oak Distillery and will be heading up a tasting at Bar UME on Sunday, November 18. Ticket details are HERE.

White Oak Distillery has been producing sake for hundreds of years, and whisky since 1984. Although they’re one of the main producers in Japan, it’s rare to see them in Australia. These bottles retail up to $250 so even if you can find them, it can be hard to score a taste. This might be your chance!