What kind of glass should you use?
“You can serve whisky in small wine glasses, if that’s all you have at home, or in an old-fashioned glass. If you really want an enhanced tasting experience, you can invest in glasses made especially for the occasion—I recommend the Glencairn brand, a Scottish crystal glassware company that makes whisky glasses. You can easily find them in speciality boutiques for about $10 each. They’re a good investment.”
What serving temperature is ideal for highlighting whisky’s complex profile?
“Your best bet is to serve whisky at room temperature or the temperature of a wine cellar maintained at approximately 16 degrees. Avoid using ice, as this will only dilute your whisky and alter your taste buds. If you want to cool your whisky, you can always use granite stones, but know that they can kill some of the flavours. Add a few drops of water to your glass. This helps reduce the burn of the alcohol and coaxes out some of the more delicate complexities.”
Scotch, bourbon, rye… which one should I start with?
“If it’s your first whisky tasting experience and you don’t want to spend a fortune, I suggest opting for a blend, which contains whisky and scotch from several different distilleries and is made with several different grains. Johnnie Walker and Ballantine are both good options. Bourbon is also a good first choice, with its pastry-like aromas and affordable price; I recommend Bulleit or Maker’s Mark. Same thing goes for Canadian and Irish whiskey—it’s a little more delicate and easy to drink. Canadian Club and Jameson are both great. Experienced whisky drinkers often opt for finer products, such as Single Malts.”
Is there a particular order to respect when it comes to enjoying whisky’s aromas?
“You go in ascending order; start with the light ones and work your way to the darker, more intense ones. SAQ taste tags can serve as a guide: light and floral, medium-bodied and fruity, medium-bodied and woody, full-bodied and complex, full-bodied and smoky. For a Single Malt tasting experience that features whiskies from all around Scotland, here are my top suggestions: Auchentoshan, Glenfiddich, Aberlour, Glenfarclas, Dalmore, Springbank, Smokehead, Laphroaig, Lagavulin.”
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What should I avoid doing when drinking whisky? What should I do to enhance my tasting experience?
“Avoid whiskies that are overly perfumed; and of course, avoid serving your whisky on ice! Always have a glass of water at hand; it’s important to stay hydrated. Remember, there are three steps to drinking whisky: 1) visual analysis (colour, clarity, viscosity); 2) olfactory sensation (so you can detect whisky’s aromas); and 3) gustative analysis (appreciating the texture, aromas and finish). It’s a good idea to serve little bites to eat with your whisky. For example, you could serve salty or umami-flavoured foods, such as seafood, fish, charcuteries, hard cheese or fermented products. A big part of it comes down to your own personal tastes. The most important thing is to have fun!”