Mary Hemsworth, from Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival shares a few tips with The Drinks Cabinet on the several different ways that whisky can be enjoyed, while appreciate its unique charactertistics. It’s probably best not to reach for the lemonade.
There are many ways to enjoy a dram or two, but which one is correct? Some people will insist on adding a splash of water, while others would turn away in horror at the prospect of doing anything other than taking it neat. With the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival taking place from the May 2-6, there’s never been a better time to get to know Scotland’s national drink, and the ‘proper’ way to drink it.
Festival manager Mary Hemsworth is often asked her views on the correct way to drink the amber nectar. Her answer is – there isn’t one.
She says, “People always ask me how they should drink their dram, but it really depends on personal taste. Ideally it should be enjoyed on its own but those who are new to whisky, or even certain types of whisky, may find their senses can get overwhelmed easily. It’s best to stick to whatever way is comfortable and working up to a neat drink.
“There are certain ways to really get the best from a malt, especially if it is a strong, quality whisky. They are best taken at room temperature and with a drop of still water – by adding this, the alcohol becomes less intense and flavours and aromas that might otherwise have been missed begin to emerge.
“Ice can have the opposite effect, as it can dull the subtle flavours coming through. While it is a more refreshing drink, ice can make the taste quite flat. This will of course open up again as the ice melts and the drink warms.
A dash of water
“Those who are new to whisky may be tempted to try it with lemonade, but when a quality whisky is involved, it’s similar to eating the finest fillet steak and covering it with tomato ketchup – it shouldn’t be done.
“Try it with a dash of water – and really appreciate the aromas before putting it to the lips. Give the glass a swirl to release all the different notes and savour them. After first sip, try to distinguish the flavours- some may have a honey sweetness to them, or an earthy peatyness. There may be hints of spices or chocolate or even a light floral distinction – take time and enjoy the different sensations.