We have earlier covered how to Taste Whisky Like a Pro. Today we look into some of the things we should consider doing to get that much more enjoyment out of our favourite whiskies.
Not all alcohols are treated equally. Oftentimes, we drink alcohol at crowded social events or noisy parties to get a happy buzz or to entertain a client. But increasingly, people are realising that it’s equally, if not more fulfilling (and much healthier to their livers) to take their time to mindfully enjoy and appreciate the taste of a whisky.
Just as passionate chefs hope that their dishes are appreciated by restaurant diners, many distilleries put a fair amount of thought into distilling and maturing their whiskies. Their whisky deserves to be mindfully savoured. Whisky-makers certainly hope drinkers would give their product a little more thought than unthinking teenage kids would!
In the spirit of mindful appreciation and protecting our livers, there are a few things one should do to get much more enjoyment out of every dram of whisky.
Tip 1: Reset your palate
Ever noticed that fruits no longer taste as sweet after you have eaten some particularly sweet candy? This has something to do with “sensory fatigue”. I won’t get into the science. But suffice to say, taste buds are just like musical instruments- they need the occasional tuning after eating stronger tasting foods. This is also why sushi often comes served with pickled ginger.
Occasionally, you may find your favourite whisky tasting a little off. The problem could lie with your palate.
The solution? First, rinse your tongue with some room-temperature water. Avoid iced water as it could numb your taste buds instead!
Next, eat some neutral-flavoured foods to remove food residue from your tastebuds and establish a baseline for more complex flavours in your whisky. Examples of palate cleansers include cream crackers, white rice and white bread.
Tip 2. Reset your nose
Assuming that your sinus is not blocked, sensory fatigue often happens to your olfactory sense too- even more likely if you have just had amazing curry at an Indian restaurant. This could cause our noses to be less sensitive to the subtle nuances and complexity in the aromas of a whisky.
The solution? First, reset your nose by smelling the most familiar scent: yourself.
Our own scent is the most familiar smell to our olfactory system, and helps establish a familiar baseline before we experience the world of scents. Therefore, if you are having some trouble picking up notes from a whisky, experts recommend tucking your nose into the quick of your elbow and taking a huge whiff of yourself before nosing the whisky.
If this still doesn’t work well enough, you could take a whiff of coffee beans or a block of dark chocolate for the dark, earthy notes to reset your olfactory system.
Tip 3. Start with a familiar-tasting whisky to reset your expectations
Finally, don’t just drink one whisky alone! We recommend starting every whisky tasting session with a familiar whisky that isn’t too strong tasting as to throw our taste buds out of whack. Your “reset” whisky should ideally not be a “sherry bomb” or “peat monster”.
Beginning with a familiar whisky sets up your sense of smell and taste in the right place to start to enjoy whiskies. The familiar notes in your first dram of whisky would provide you with a compass as you navigate through the complexity of flavours in the unfamiliar whiskies that follow.
This also gives you an opportunity to compare and contrast the taste of new whiskies with the whisky you are familiar with. Is this new whisky sweeter? Fruiter? Or smokier?
Personally, I love starting every whisky tasting session by sipping a dram of Nikka Taketsuru 2020 with a bit of water added. The aromatic floral notes, bright fruity flavours and light, delicate texture of the Taketsuru sets up my nose and palate for the heavier flavours in the whiskies to follow shortly after.
The Taketsuru has a wonderfully timeless flavour profile and provides a very elegant contrast in a tasting session filled with heavy, oily, peaty notes from the typical scotch and bourbon. Thirsty for a sample? We gotchu fam- we just happen to have a few here!
And so here are our three tips to getting the most out of our whiskies in future. As always, remember to sit back and savour your whiskies!