Beginner's Guide: Whisky Appreciation (3 things you need to know before your first dram)
Updated: Oct 1, 2021
Whisky is a spirit known for its air of refinement and sophistication. We associate it with someone who is cultured, suave and dripping in dapper fashion. This may be intimidating, like meeting Thomas Shelby from the Peaky Blinders for the first time. Look no further, let GudSht guide you through the 3 things you need to know before your first whisky dram.
1.What is a dram and what is whisky made from?
Drink, DRAM, Drunk! A dram is a term coined in Scotland as a fluid measurement, especially for whisky. It did not sound good enough to say, “Let’s have a shot of whisky!” during an era where whisky was a rare luxury. Today, it refers to a single pour of 45ml.
Now let’s dive into what it’s made from. Whisky is an amber coloured spirit distilled from grain mash and aged in wooden barrels. Various grains include malted barley, corn (maize), rye and wheat. The maturation process in different wooden barrels, or ‘casks’ as we call them lends the spirit its smoothness, flavour and even colour. The more popular types of casks include wooden finish, wine finish, port finish, sherry finish, madeira finish, rum finish, and beer finish.
GudSht recommends Auchentoshan Threewood to get a full experience of how casks give whisky its character. The ageing process takes place in three different cask types (American Bourbon, Spanish Oloroso Sherry, and Pedro Ximenez Sherry casks). This creates a rich, complex whisky with toffee and sherry flavours.
2.Where does whisky come from?
It is still an inconclusive debate if whisky originates from Ireland or Scotland. But does it matter? They all taste damn good!
The Irish version speaks about how early Christian Irish monks brought back the art of distillation from Arabia in 600 A.D. The locals then tweaked it skilfully to create delicious masterpieces.
The Scottish claim of provenance for the spirit involves either a Friar John Cor who in 1494 ordered a bottle of “VIII bolls of malt”, the first record of whisky production in Scotland or the Vikings who raided Scotland in 400 A.D then settled down to distil whisky (they learnt distillation in Syria).
Japanese whiskies are considered from the new era, which began in the mid-1920s. It was the combined genius of Shinjiro Torii and Matsataka Taketsuru that gave life to the first Japanese whisky distillery. Japan is now known to produce some of the best whiskies in the world, famed for their mild texture and pleasant aroma.
For your first taste of a Scotch Whisky, GudSht recommends Macallan Sherry Oak 12 Years Old. It is a rich and complex whisky characterised by spice and dried fruit, with a natural rich golden colour.
For your introduction to Japanese whisky, GudSht recommends Hibiki Harmony whisky. It is a luminous, delicate, and complex whisky. It has a subtle and long finish with hits of Mizunara, a type of Japanese oak.
3.Whisky nosing and how to drink whisky?
As Mary Roach says, “Taste – as in personal preference, discernment – is subjective”. How one person enjoys their whisky might be polars to another. There is no right or wrong way, but there are advocated methods (sounds quite political doesn’t it). But what is certain is that whisky is best enjoyed with your loved ones, or as we call them, your homies.
You must begin with the right glass. The Glencairn glass is best for whisky appreciation. The tapered mouth ensures that the best aromas of your whisky are caught. You then observe the colour of your whisky. The darker the colour suggests the longer the maturation process. Next, you swirl and sniff. Take notice of the bouquet of aromas. These include notes of fruitiness, spice and of course smokiness. Do observe the “legs” of the whisky dripping down the sides of the glass. This indicates the viscosity and mouth feel. When you take your first sip, mindfully let it linger before swallowing. Take note of the flavours on your tongue, and the length of the finish.
As a beginner, drinking whisky as it is may be a little challenging. Some preferred drinking methods are whisky with a drop of water (even hot water), with a splash of soda or with a couple of ice cubes for slower dilution. The dilution can help open up the whisky and reveal new flavour notes.
As your first whisky, GudSht recommends The Glenrothes 12-Year-Old Single Malt. See if you can notice its distinguished character. It has a light aroma, with banana and vanilla. This resonates in its taste along with hints of melon and cinnamon. It has a long, sweet finish with a light spice.
Your whisky journey has begun. Get started by ordering your first luxurious bottle of whisky with GudSht. Congratulations on finally dipping your toes into the ocean of whisky knowledge. For more whisky insight and understanding, keep slurping on your whisky drams and subscribe to our newsletter.