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How to Drink Whisky
National Geographic ^ | January 5, 2013 | Andrew Evans

Posted on 01/05/2013 4:29:46 PM PST by nickcarraway

It smelled like bacon.

I was afraid to say it out loud, though—I doubt any real food and drink connoisseurs compare the smell of some grand old Scotch to an everyday pork product, but that’s what my nose captured.

In the heart of Edinburgh, in a room walled with brass- and bronze-colored bottles, I sniffed more and more whisky and soon captured a whole rainbow of aromas: cloves, apples, vanilla, sage and strawberries. And that smokiness I smelled as bacon? That comes from the Scottish peat they burn when heating the mix.

Not everyone loves whisky, but as alcohol goes, this bright and golden drink offers a rich taste of the land from whence it comes. Real Scotch Whisky is made with malted barley and pure Scottish water, and to qualify as Scotch, it must be aged for a minimum of three years on Scottish soil.

The range of personality in Scotch is so fascinating and explains why 90% of whisky is sold in blends as opposed to single malt (Glenfiddich is the world’s largest seller of single malt Scotch in the world).

Today, there are 107 different whisky distilleries in Scotland today and none of them make the same product. Like good wine or cheese, the individual peculiarities of Scotch bring out a thousand subjective qualities in every sip. In order to understand those differences, I spent the afternoon in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle, practically bathing in whisky.

Though I am an unseasoned traveler in the world of whisky, I sought the help of a professional guide—Angela Kier, the Deputy General Manager of the Scotch Whisky Experience. Angela grew up with Scotch, surrounded by distilleries and the culture of drinking Scotch in Scotland. After showing me the world’s largest collection of Scotch Whisky (3,384 bottles), she taught me how to drink Scotch in these five easy steps:

1. LOOK See the color of the liquid—this is part of the whisky’s personality. New whisky is clear, but gains its color from the used oak barrels during maturation. Color can range from brassy yellow to golden reds or a pale sunshine. The color of Scotch hints at how it was made.

2. SWIRL With your hand on the bottom of a round tasting glass, swirl the whisky until it coats the sides. Look for the “legs”—the drips of liquid pulling back down into the glass. Watch how quickly the legs run down the side of the glass—this reveals how light the whisky is. Some whisky is very light, with lots of legs (an indication of light flavor), while others can be viscous or oily indicating an older, heavier-bodied whisky. A very thick whisky will coat the glass like the golden silhouette of Scottish mountains.

3. NOSE Tasting whisky is an olfactory experience, so in order to capture all the nuance of flavor, you must “nose” the whisky. “Smell with your mouth open,” counsels Angela, explaining how it offers a fuller nose. “At first you might just get the alcohol. Adding a splash of water releases the aromas.” Bring the glass back and forth—nose it deeply again and again. “Whisky is a sensory experience, so get your nose right up in the glass!” says Angela, who told me that anyone can learn to nose whisky. “The best way to improve your sense of smell is to smell everything.” This allows your brain to create a kind of encyclopedia of scents. (My brain smells bacon.)

4. TASTE When you’re ready to drink, let the whisky coat the palate. “Some are creamy and smooth, others light and fruity,” explains Angela. Adding water releases aromas, adding ice will lock them in. “There are a lot of ‘rules’ about adding water, but don’t pay any attention to that. Different brands react differently to water, so find out what you like. The important thing is to just enjoy your whisky.” Also, remember to say Slàinte Mhath! (Good Health)

5. FINISH “Finish” does not mean tossing back your drink like real men do in the movies. Rather, the finish is the whisky’s grand finale where you feel the flavor and tempo of the drink. “Once you’ve swallowed, see how long it stays with you. Scotch whisky can be quick and short or it can be very long and warming.”

Perhaps most important of all, Angela advised me to never drink whisky alone. “Whisky is a drink for sharing—that’s what we do in Scotland, we share one another’s whisky. It warms you up when you’re walking in the hills!”

Like all food (and travel), whisky is also very personal. “My grandparents used to heat their farm with peat,” she told me, “so it’s a fond childhood memory that I get every time I taste a good peaty whisky.” Whisky is like that—it carries a lot of personal meaning and says much about who we are as individuals. This is probably why I smelled bacon—some of my fondest memories involve bacon.

But now some of my fondest memories involve Scotland, which is what I will think of every time I see a bottle of Scotch.


TOPICS: Food
KEYWORDS: alcohol; cocktails; scotch; scotland; whiskey
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1 posted on 01/05/2013 4:29:49 PM PST by nickcarraway
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To: nickcarraway

Did you know they sell a bottle of scotch for over $21,000. Numerous brands are $200 to $2,500 a bottle.

A nice 18 yr old Glenfiddich is about the highest I go though.


2 posted on 01/05/2013 4:31:49 PM PST by driftdiver (I could eat it raw, but why do that when I have a fire.)
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To: driftdiver

I guess I’m going to have to try Glenfiddich. I’ve seen it discussed many times on Freep threads. I’ve paid as much as $35 for some whiskeys, so I guess I can afford it.


3 posted on 01/05/2013 4:36:24 PM PST by Big Giant Head
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To: Big Giant Head

I think you can get a young Glenfiddich for around that. The 18yr ran about $90 but it will last me a year or two.

It isn’t for mixing with coke.


4 posted on 01/05/2013 4:41:54 PM PST by driftdiver (I could eat it raw, but why do that when I have a fire.)
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To: driftdiver

I have a freind who is from scotalnd who brings me Tomatin 40 year old. Nectar of the gods.


5 posted on 01/05/2013 4:42:13 PM PST by Ouderkirk (Obama has turned America into an aristocracy of the unaccomplished.)
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To: nickcarraway
Them boys in Lynchburg, they make a darn fine whiskey. And Tennessee was here for Texas when we needed the help. I'll stick with my black label.

/johnny

6 posted on 01/05/2013 4:42:41 PM PST by JRandomFreeper (Gone Galt)
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To: Ouderkirk

I’m jealous. The best I’ve had was the Macallan 18 Year Old but its too pricey for me right now.


7 posted on 01/05/2013 4:44:08 PM PST by driftdiver (I could eat it raw, but why do that when I have a fire.)
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To: nickcarraway

I did not know that about the effects of water and ice. I am a Scotch rocks man but it sounds like I need to do some experimenting with di-hydrogen monoxide.


8 posted on 01/05/2013 4:44:16 PM PST by NonValueAdded (If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs, you've likely misread the situation.)
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To: JRandomFreeper

Sorta like comparing fast food with fine dining.

The fast food is ok at times but doesn’t do much for the soul.


9 posted on 01/05/2013 4:46:07 PM PST by driftdiver (I could eat it raw, but why do that when I have a fire.)
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To: nickcarraway

love the 12 year Solara Reserve.


10 posted on 01/05/2013 4:47:55 PM PST by American in Israel (A wise man's heart directs him to the right, but the foolish mans heart directs him toward the left.)
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To: nickcarraway

just poured myself a 18yr old Glenlivet.


11 posted on 01/05/2013 4:49:29 PM PST by driftdiver (I could eat it raw, but why do that when I have a fire.)
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To: nickcarraway

I’ve had a yacking cough that has woken me over the past two nights. The only way I can stifle it is to take a shot of Jack.


12 posted on 01/05/2013 4:50:49 PM PST by Rebelbase
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To: nickcarraway
Today it is hard to believe that this sentence got past the editor today:

Today, there are 107 different whisky distilleries in Scotland today and none of them make the same product.

Does the writer really think that different distilleries would make the same end product?

13 posted on 01/05/2013 4:52:40 PM PST by Michael.SF. (Obama lied, Stevens died.)
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To: nickcarraway

My Granpa Mac was a fine man but he loved the whiskey way too much.


14 posted on 01/05/2013 4:53:46 PM PST by yarddog (One shot one miss.)
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To: nickcarraway

Ah Scotch, a rugby club I associated with had a tour set up for matches in England & Scotland. If you want to have good meal in England, eat breakfast 3 times a day. For Scotch, oh wow, its true, there is quite a few distiliaries. I shipped home about 30 liters from 12 distiliries whom’s Scotch will never make it to the USA, because of whatever reasons. Each and everyone is unique to my pallet, and is better than Chivas. I break out some libations for quality sippin with comany that will appreciate the expierience. Funny crack about Scots; what do you call a Scotsman? A Irish man whom never learned to swim;)


15 posted on 01/05/2013 4:55:01 PM PST by guyfromjrz (fresh breath, it speaks for itself.)
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To: nickcarraway
How to Drink Whiskey

Slowly and with something in yer belly. There are other ways, but a body usually ends up nekkid, in jail or both.
16 posted on 01/05/2013 4:57:54 PM PST by WorkingClassFilth (we)
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To: nickcarraway
Real Scotch Whisky is made with malted barley and pure Scottish water, and to qualify as Scotch, it must be aged for a minimum of three years on Scottish soil.

Never liked scotch much until I got a taste of the real stuff, a 10-year-old Laphroaig, of all things (Did you know the founder of the distillery slipped and drowned in a vat of his own whiskey, back in the 1800s?. But they said he must of liked it because he got out a few times to eat.)

My favorite these days is The Macallan. Most extravagant purchase was a glass the 25-year-old anniversary malt at a fancy restaurant. Holy moly, it was like drinking silk. Love to have a case of that stuff!

17 posted on 01/05/2013 5:00:35 PM PST by LibWhacker
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To: nickcarraway

Drank Glenlivit for a number of years.

Just recently bought a bottle of Bowmore.

At first didn’t like it.

But really like the taste now. I only drink occasionally but in the winter it is scotch and it needs to be good scotch.


18 posted on 01/05/2013 5:03:49 PM PST by Chickensoup (Leftist Totalitarian Fascism coming to a country like yours.)
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To: JRandomFreeper

If you like Jack, you need to try Rebecca Creek whiskey from San Antonio. Smoother than frog fur and Texas born and bred!


19 posted on 01/05/2013 5:07:00 PM PST by manic4organic (It was nice knowing you, America.)
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To: nickcarraway; Revolting cat!; Slings and Arrows

The laffs of youth.

But I've grown up to respect my elders. Don't take any bottle of whiskey older than you are lightly!

20 posted on 01/05/2013 5:07:07 PM PST by a fool in paradise (America 2013 - STUCK ON STUPID)
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To: Michael.SF.
Today it is hard to believe that this sentence got past the editor today:

Close yer tags:  < /irony >


snicker

21 posted on 01/05/2013 5:08:37 PM PST by tomkat (-/\/\/\-)
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To: nickcarraway

Maybe the bacon taste was the haggis backing up on the author...


22 posted on 01/05/2013 5:11:26 PM PST by alpo (What would Selco do?)
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To: tomkat

I was poking fun at the sentence by duplicating its poor construction, it was not an accident.


23 posted on 01/05/2013 5:12:25 PM PST by Michael.SF. (Obama lied, Stevens died.)
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To: driftdiver

I get a liter once a year. it’s expensive at $600 per bottle, but there’s nothing like it. You lick the glass to get every drop at those prices. The long finish is the reason why.


24 posted on 01/05/2013 5:16:03 PM PST by Ouderkirk (Obama has turned America into an aristocracy of the unaccomplished.)
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To: NonValueAdded

I knew that water and ice would affect the flavor but I hadn’t heard that ice would lock in the aromas. I tend to let the ice chill the drink, then melt off and unlock subtle flavors.


25 posted on 01/05/2013 5:18:43 PM PST by a fool in paradise (America 2013 - STUCK ON STUPID)
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To: tomkat
Close yer tags: < /irony >

I didn't see an open tag. More importantly, learn how to use angle brackets in HTML </irony>2

26 posted on 01/05/2013 5:19:41 PM PST by freedumb2003 (MOLON LABE)
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To: nickcarraway
My Scotch of choice today, preferably with one cube of ice instead of the water as suggested, as well as a fine choice of Scot:


27 posted on 01/05/2013 5:19:52 PM PST by Michael.SF. (Obama lied, Stevens died.)
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To: Michael.SF.
Today it is hard to believe that this sentence got past the editor today

And then there's tomorrow.:

28 posted on 01/05/2013 5:21:10 PM PST by RegulatorCountry
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To: nickcarraway

rather fond of 3 day old apple brandy myself.


29 posted on 01/05/2013 5:21:23 PM PST by RC one (.From My Cold Dead Hands.)
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To: Michael.SF.

Gotcha .. was just funnin’ ya anyway .. cheers


30 posted on 01/05/2013 5:22:39 PM PST by tomkat (-/\/\/\-)
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To: freedumb2003
you mean like this?: <piss off>
31 posted on 01/05/2013 5:23:26 PM PST by tomkat (-/\/\/\-)
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To: nickcarraway

In general, the tips they give here are similar to those for tasting wine. I’ve only had Scotch a couple times, but it was enough for me to decide I prefer single-malt to blended.

I thought the “bacon” comment was funny. Especially since I frequently pick up aromas of pot roast on a good pinot noir.


32 posted on 01/05/2013 5:24:14 PM PST by ZirconEncrustedTweezers (Some cultures are destined to remain stupid and we need to quit trying to uplift them.)
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To: Rebelbase

I’ve found that Jack also works wonders for a toothache.


33 posted on 01/05/2013 5:25:31 PM PST by ZirconEncrustedTweezers (Some cultures are destined to remain stupid and we need to quit trying to uplift them.)
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To: JRandomFreeper

I ordered Jim Beam in Nashville once. The bartender took a step back, glared at me and said “That’s Northern whiskey!”. “Make it Jack” I replied, sheepishly.


34 posted on 01/05/2013 5:25:52 PM PST by Chuckster (The longer I live the less I care about what you think.)
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To: nickcarraway
A good Scotch is about the only thing that will pull me away from Smirnoff triple distilled.
Just like with the Smirnoff, no ice, no water.
2 shots at the most.
No headache.
35 posted on 01/05/2013 5:26:47 PM PST by The Cajun (Sarah Palin, Mark Levin......Nuff said.)
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To: tomkat

No worries! Cheers to you as well.


36 posted on 01/05/2013 5:26:56 PM PST by Michael.SF. (Obama lied, Stevens died.)
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To: nickcarraway

Nuff said.

37 posted on 01/05/2013 5:28:31 PM PST by djf (Conservative values help the poor. Liberal values help them STAY poor!!!)
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To: tomkat
you mean like this?: <piss off>

Better, but that is an opening tag only.

What close tag looked to you to be missing from the OP?

38 posted on 01/05/2013 5:30:14 PM PST by freedumb2003 (MOLON LABE)
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To: Red_Devil 232

One for the Beer Thirty group?


39 posted on 01/05/2013 5:38:22 PM PST by Twotone (Marte Et Clypeo)
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To: nickcarraway
New whisky is clear, but gains its color from the used oak barrels during maturation.

What is it about oak that is so special to wines and spirits? Why can't maple, hickory or birch be used for barrels?

40 posted on 01/05/2013 5:52:15 PM PST by fso301
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To: driftdiver

A buddy of mine that runs a small bar brought me some Woodford Reserve? I think that’s what it’s called. I had some Makers Mark, and they were very similar.

Having a sip now.


41 posted on 01/05/2013 5:57:47 PM PST by Big Giant Head
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To: Big Giant Head

Glenfiddich and Glenlevit are most excellent. Affordable consistent not to mention very very clean and tasty. I gave up blended scotches many moons ago. If you like single malt nothing else comes close.


42 posted on 01/05/2013 5:59:44 PM PST by ImJustAnotherOkie (zerogottago)
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To: fso301

I really don’t know why they choose Oak but it probably is the flavor.

I have cut up a lot of oak wood and I always thought it had a pleasant aroma when split open.


43 posted on 01/05/2013 6:01:12 PM PST by yarddog (One shot one miss.)
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To: nickcarraway
I'm not sure what brand of scotch they put in this whenever I order it...

Mark

44 posted on 01/05/2013 6:06:14 PM PST by MarkL (Do I really look like a guy with a plan?)
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To: nickcarraway

Does anyone else keep their’s in the freezer?


45 posted on 01/05/2013 6:06:14 PM PST by ImJustAnotherOkie (zerogottago)
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To: driftdiver

Bourbon. Blanton’s.
Canadian whiskey in December/January. Opening a bottle of Pendelton tonight.


46 posted on 01/05/2013 6:08:34 PM PST by ctdonath2 (End of debate. Your move.)
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To: yarddog

I guess you could use cedar barrels for scotch to make your feet quit stinking. Sell that one to Dr. Scholls.


47 posted on 01/05/2013 6:10:04 PM PST by ImJustAnotherOkie (zerogottago)
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To: NonValueAdded
The effects of ice and water are even more prevalent in absinthe.

The ice water pulls the herbal oils out of the absinthe only to partially redissolve in the alcohol. They call that the Louche effect. It also has a unique effect on yer brain.

48 posted on 01/05/2013 6:12:43 PM PST by rawcatslyentist ("Behold, I am against you, O arrogant one," Jeremiah 50:31)
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To: JRandomFreeper
Them boys in Lynchburg, they make a darn fine whiskey.

______________________________________

Whiskey? That's like whisky with sugar syrup, isn't it?

49 posted on 01/05/2013 6:15:31 PM PST by wtc911 (Amigo - you've been had.)
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To: Chickensoup; LibWhacker

Bowmore and Laphroaig are my two standbys. As different as night and day, but both excellent.


50 posted on 01/05/2013 6:16:35 PM PST by Noumenon (One individual with courage, determination and a rifle can change the course of history.)
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