CLAN GOLD’S TIPS ON HOW TO JUDGE WHISKY
We’ve spent a lifetime tasting whisky and we still learn something new almost every day. Whiskies of different ages, from different regions or matured in different kinds of cask all have their own special character. Sounds complicated we know, but all you need to remember is this simple rule: “First use your eyes, then your nose and last your mouth”. It’s our way of judging a whisky and you’ll find it really helps to get the best from this wonderful spirit.
When a whisky is first made, it’s colourless. Colour comes with ageing in the cask, becoming darker as it matures, so a very pale whisky is probably a young one and may taste a bit fiery.
Your eyes can tell you something else too. If you swirl your glass so that the whisky coats the inside, you’ll see that it runs back down the glass in rivulets known in the trade as ‘legs’. Older, richer whiskies will have thick, slow-moving legs while younger ones will be thinner and so run faster down the glass.
When we are assessing a number of whiskies at the same time, we don’t actually taste them – we simply use our nose. You’ll find a wonderfully complex series of aroma rises from a good whisky. Some even come with tasting notes, including descriptions of the aroma, on the bottle. Don’t pay them too much attention. Different people detect different things in an aroma and have different ways of describing them. Just relax and enjoy that very special experience. To make it more interesting, after gaining your first impressions, add a little water to the whisky. New and different aromas will be released.
Now for the moment you’ve been waiting for. Sip your whisky slowly and allow it to move around your mouth. Taste buds are situated in different parts of the mouth and detect different aspects of flavour – you’ll want to savour them all! You will probably notice that subtleties not present in the aroma now reveal themselves, and not all at once. The flavour of a true Scotch lingers delightfully in the mouth. Connoisseurs call this the ‘finish’. We call it pure pleasure.
As we say in Scotland, Slainte Mhath! Good health!