Four things that will make you a whiskey connoisseur

No other spirit has such a reputation as whiskey. But many drink it more for image reasons than for pleasure. You can learn to understand and decipher a whiskey.

Whiskey is probably the most famous spirit in the world. It can be found in every bar, and record sums for particularly old bottles are achieved in auction houses at regular intervals. In any case, no one can fool him culturally: Winston Churchill described him as “a riddle wrapped up in a mystery and shrouded in secrets”, James Bond even refused to shoot a glass – this is a “waste of scotch”, according to the secret agent Her Majesty’s services.

However, those who are just beginning to immerse themselves in the world of whiskey, in the flavors of the Highlands and Islands, are sometimes overwhelmed. Entry into the world of whiskey is not as difficult as Winston Churchill made it. Four things with which one approaches the most complex spirit.

1. Understand whiskey

Before you spend huge sums on individual bottles, you should first find out as much as possible about the spirit. What is whiskey made of, how is the product made, and why is whiskey sometimes written? What is the difference between the Speyside region and the island of Islay? How do smoke aromas end up in the bottle? Anyone who starts researching whiskey quickly goes from the hundredth to the thousandth.

It is therefore important to find well-prepared reading material: In addition to excellently researched blogs such as ” Eye for Spirits ” (and the no less informative podcast of the same name), there are also recommended books. “The World Atlas of Whiskey” is a reference by Dave Broom – this work is nothing less than “a must for drinkers,” wrote Forbes magazine.

A good German-language overview for beginners can be found in “Whiskeys of the World: Distilleries, Brands, Tours, Rarities”. Also recommended is Cyrille Malds and Alexandre Vingtiers “Whiskey knowledge: The 750 best varieties in a quick check”, In addition to basic topics such as production and tasting, the aromas of the individual distillates are brought to the fore.

2. Learn to analyze the smell

“In the nose, wonderful aromas of sherry, dried fruits, hazelnuts and Scottish heather unfold, which are surrounded by a light smoky note.” It is impressive when a connoisseur recognizes delicate notes such as herbs and nuts in a whiskey without even having tried a sip. Mainly because whiskey is one of the most complex spirits around. Deciphering the aromas is above all a practice.

If you want to delve deeper into the subject, a so-called aroma set ( e.g. from Aromaster ) is recommended . This is a kind of odor library in which typical whiskey fragrances are contained in small bottles. The spectrum ranges from fruity notes such as pineapple, mango and green apple to notes such as caramel and tobacco to unusual flavors such as gum, iodine and moss. Anyone who dares the experiment will quickly see how difficult it is to unequivocally identify even everyday smells such as butter or banana in a blind test.

The professional set with 88 different fragrances costs 345 euros – a proud sum, but the workmanship of the box is first class. If you want to start smaller, you can purchase basic sets with 12 (75 euros) or 24 flavors (150 euros). Similar exercise sets are also available for wine, cognac, tequila, beer, sake, coffee and tea.

3. Get a taste for it

Now to the most pleasant part of whiskey further education: Try is better than study – this old rule of thumb also applies to whiskey. Some whiskey tastes like a fruit basket, another like a burnt lump of peat. None of them is better or worse per se, tastes are too different for that.

To find out what kind of whisk (e) y you like yourself, it is advisable to purchase so-called tasting kits. These contain small amounts of different bottles, either from individual manufacturers ( e.g. from Auchentoshan with three different single malt whiskeys) or across manufacturers with whiskeys from one region or even from all over the world. More advanced whiskey fans are the tasting set (12 x 25 ml) from the Scotch Single Malt Whiskey Society recommended.

An important tip, regardless of the type: let the whiskey breathe in the glass. Pour it into the glass, swirl it two or three times (slowly, not like in a centrifuge) and give it a minute to unfold.

4. Look around for something new

Have you discovered a favorite style, maybe even a favorite whiskey? Congratulation. And now look out for the next bottle. “You never stop learning” is another rule of thumb that applies to whiskey. Because not only are new bottlings constantly coming onto the market, your own taste is constantly evolving.

Initially, many prefer rather sweet, catchy flavors. Whiskeys with too many rough edges, on the other hand, deter many beginners. A few years later, however, it can look completely different when the tongue longs for new flavors. Therefore: keep putting your own taste to the test.

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