There’s no right or wrong way to drink whisky. As long as you enjoy it, that’s all that matters.
But there are some techniques that can heighten the experience of drinking whisky, making it even more pleasurable.
There are a couple of things you need to consider before you get to the whisky itself.
A good, solid tumbler (a short glass with a heavy bottom) if you’re drinking your whisky neat, or with a little ice or water. For ‘long’ whisky drinks, use a ‘highball’ – a tall, slim, straight-sided glass.
This can have a profound effect on flavour and ‘mouthfeel’ – literally how the whisky feels in your mouth. Well-chilled Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve has a texture like honey, while Johnnie Walker Double Black gently warmed in a Bain Marie has an earthy warmth reminiscent of freshly flambéed fig pudding.
A significant part of the flavour of food and drink is down to the way it smells and whisky is no exception. Taking the time to enjoy the complex aroma – the ‘nose’ – of a good whisky can be hugely rewarding.
Simply pour a measure of the whisky into your glass. Taking the glass by the stem or base, hold your nose inside the aperture (the opening at the top) and inhale gently.
(A connoisseur will use a special kind of glass for ‘nosing’ a whisky, called a ‘snifter’. It is a glass with a stem, where the aperture is narrower than the bowl in which the whisky lies. This serves to concentrate the vapour and make the aroma more intense.)
Now take a sip. ‘Savour the flavour’ by taking your time and allowing the whisky to roll over your palate for a good ten seconds, before allowing it to slip smoothly down.
A good whisky will spark comparisons with a whole range of flavours and scents you have experienced before. These will be highly personal and unique to you. There is no wrong or right. Comparing the flavours you discover with those of your friends is one of many of the joys drinking whisky.
The simplest way to enjoy your whisky is neat, cleaning your palate with cool water between sips. Many people also add water to their whisky, which can open up the flavours as the liquids combine. Try this, but remember the old adage: “you can add, but you can't take away”. Too much water can spoil a whisky and ‘flatten’ its layers of flavour.
Try different glasses and different temperatures. Add a little water, or a mixer. Try a cocktail. But remember, only you know the serve that’s right for you.