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How to Properly Enjoy a Whisky

Whisky is more closely related to wine than beer, and this likeness extends to how it is enjoyed. While there is a certain pleasure in drinking a pint without paying it too much thought, whisky invites a different kind of enjoyment.

It offers the opportunity for a more thoughtful, reflective experience that is savoured and drawn out. However, this doesn’t always come intuitively. As a rule, the more whisky you drink over time and the more actively you cultivate your whisky wisdom, the greater the returns will be.

In this article, Parramatta whisky bar Heritage Lounge explains the process of savouring a whisky.

1. Before ordering, understand the history and the process

You will get the most out of the whisky if you first understand the process of distilling, the use of casks and their role, the effect of distillation duration, the role of water, whisky finishing, the meaning of single malt versus blended whisky, and other complex factors governing the distillation of whisky.

2. Figure out your favourite way of consuming whisky

This may take a bit of trial and error, but over time you will determine your preference for whisky. This may be on the rocks (with ice), with soda water, with a dash of normal water, or even in a mixed drink. When having whisky for the first time and wanting to experience it in depth, many elect to have it on the rocks.

3. Observe how the whisky looks in the glass

Hold the glass up to the light and have a look at the colour; the rich golden tones are likely to be from the wood in the barrels or casks in which the whisky has been distilled. Also, swish the glass around in circles in your hand, and observe how ‘viscous’ or thick it is. This is like seeing if a wine ‘has legs’ that run down the glass slowly. Usually if the whisky is quite viscous you can expect a richer mouthfeel because this may indicate higher sugar or alcohol content. This may also be determined by observing for how long the bubbles linger in the glass after swirling or shaking – with a longer duration indicating higher alcohol content.

4. Smell the whisky.

Hold the glass to your nose and inhale the smell of the whisky. Give it a swirl as you do so to help release the aromas. Be cautious where alcohol content is high not to overpower your nose with too powerful sniffing. Search your memory for smells you recognise and note them mentally. If you were smelling The Balvenie 40-Year-Old at Parramatta bar and Sydney nightlife icon Heritage Lounge for example, you may observe a rich and intensely fruity note with vanilla, dried apricots, citrus and ginger.

5. Sip the whisky.

Now the best part begins. Sip the whisky and observe its texture and taste. Have some tasting notes on hand, for example those available in The Heritage Lounge’s The Vault menu. Alternatively have a tasting wheel bookmarked on your phone and be equipped with terms to describe the whisky, such as floral, leathery or spicy. Observe for a beginning, middle, and end note of the flavour profile; and the finish you experience after consumption. If we look at the above-mentioned The Balvenie whisky, you may then compare the smell with the orange blossom, candied ginger, cinnamon and honey sweetness taste.

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