Beginner's Guide To Appreciating Whisky

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Many of you may have seen in the movies: villains, protagonists, businessmen and businesswomen nestled comfortably in their big leather chairs, sipping on a nice cup of whisky over a monologue and cigar in their mouth. Though popularised in pop culture as an alcoholic beverage that has long been associated with class, elegance and sophistication, proper appreciation of whisky may be a foreign concept to the everyday layperson. 

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First, let us start off by understanding what whisky exactly is. Whisky is a type of distilled alcoholic beverage made from fermented mash or distilling beer. Whiskies can vary from country to country due to different methods of production and even ingredients involved. So, if you have yet to read up on the different kinds of whisky, refer to our article here on the Different Types of Whisky made popular in different parts of the world! Anyway, it is important that we understand the differences in whisky types, their flavours, and production as it will help us as beginners better appreciate the beverage!

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Step 1: Be in the right environment 

While our focus may be on appreciating whisky, the environment plays an equally important part in creating the right ambience! To fully understand the elegance and sophistication behind the art that is whisky, make sure that you are in a cozy and comfortable environment with some music. That will set you in the right mood, right place with the right drink, ready for the next step in whisky exploration! 

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Step 2: Observe the whisky

After choosing your whisky and pouring it into a cup, take a swirl and appreciate the colour and shade of the drink! Solely from the colour, a lot can be told about the age of the drink, its flavour, and even possibly the country of production. Typically, if the whisky is of a darker shade, it could possibly be that the whisky is of an older age, from many years of sitting in the wooden cask. Otherwise, whiskies like that of the European Oak carry a darker shade as contrasted with the bright gold shade of American Oak whiskey. 

Source: The Crafty Cask

If you’ve had some experience with whisky tasting, you would probably have heard of whisky “legs” or even “tears” from swirling in the cup, which could be very telling signs! When whisky is swirled in the cup, a combination of factors like surface tension and rate of evaporation creates the phenomenon where the liquid creeps on the surface of the cups, creating “legs”. Though widely disputed amongst alcohol enthusiasts, the general consensus is that the speed of the “legs” moving will result in varying textures of the alcohol in the mouth: the faster moving the “legs”, the lighter the taste and vice versa. 

Source: scotchwhiskey.com

Step 3: Take a sip 

Now with an understanding of what whisky is about, it is time to take a sip! The proper way to fully enjoy whisky (according to the experts), is to take a small sip, swirl it around, and coat your mouth with it. What does the drink primarily taste like? Does the flavour match up to the aroma of the whisky? After considering all that, swallow the whisky slowly to fully experience the taste with different parts of your tongue. Does the aroma linger in your mouth? Is the flavour consistent and lasting even after swallowing the whisky? Although the experience and interpretation may vary from person to person, fine-tasting whiskies generally leave a consistent and long-lasting aroma in the mouth allowing a full experience. That said, depending on the person’s mood and production methods, a cheap whisky brand can also deliver a premium experience so don’t belittle the drink based on its price! 

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Armed with this new knowledge, you are now a self-made (and admittedly amateur…) whisky connoisseur! The possibilities are endless and every sip of every bottle can provide an experience unique to you and only you! If you are interested to learn more about the art of whisky appreciation, check out our Whisky Appreciation Workshop by The Single Cask! You won’t be self-made anymore… and you’ll have some industry knowledge to go with the taste of decadent whisky, served by the only independent bottler in Singapore!

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