Over the past few weeks, we have been busy around the distillery landscaping, laying down parking areas and renewing driveways in preparation for the eventual opening of our cellar door.
We have also been decanting casks for our upcoming releases and painstakingly tasting them from cask strength down to the low 40’s (%ABV) before deciding upon the best abv to release them at. This process involves taking a sample at cask strength then cutting it down (dilution) in stages with our pristine mountain water. We put these samples to one side for a few days to let the spirit and the water “marry”. We (Al the super palate, Lisa, Claire and I) then come back to them, tasting each abv sample separately so that it can be judged on its own merits. It’s a tough day at the office but it's all for a good cause. Jokes aside, the tasting is conducted over the course of several days if not weeks so as to not overload the palate.
What is amazing about Single Malt Whisky is that adding water does not merely dilute it (reduce the abv and “thin out” the flavour) but actually changes the flavour profile considerably. So that if we take samples at Cask Strength, 58%, 54%, 50%, 46% & 42% they will each taste significantly different. So much so that they could easily be mistaken for being from completely separate casks.
All of this tasting combined with the fact that many of our subscribers are relatively new to the world of Malt Whisky prompted today's diary topic.
Most of us are familiar with the classic Glencairn glass. They aren’t my favourite but are starting to grow on me. The classic tulip shape is great for nosing your dram however it does pose some challenges when trying to bring it up to body temperature, especially if you have smaller hands.
My favourite glass for enjoying our whisky is a stemmed brandy balloon. The shape is perfect for nosing whisky and the stem allows it to sit effortlessly in your hand while it warms up. Getting your dram up to body temperature is really important as it opens up the flavours. I often use the analogy of ripe juicy strawberries. At room temperature they are sweet and delicious, however, if you try one straight from the fridge the taste is bland and woody.
In regards to water, I tend to try a few drops after I've already tasted it neat, particularly when trying cask strength. This is more to give an indication of how it will take dilution.
My suggestion is to experiment. Find good company, a relaxing space and a comfortable chair and enjoy a dram together. Take mental notes and share what you’ve learned. After all, it’s your palate and nobody knows it better than you do.
I'll leave you with the words of Jim Murray who is best known for his observations on whisky and his annually updated book on the subject, Jim Murray's Whisky Bible.
The Murray Method of Whisky Tasting
Source - Whisky Bible 201. Jim Murray's Whisky Bible is a compact guide containing every whisky that Murray and a team of researchers are able to source from the worldwide market.
This whisky has been described as being a lighter style but full of flavour.
“People who don’t think they like whisky will like this,
People who like whisky will love this, and
People who love whisky will drink this all day long”