Single Malt Scotch Whisky is probably the most complex spirit in the world and thus the most fun and sensually stimulating to taste and analyse.
So, lets get started: gently pour some whisky into a glass.
You are now ready to begin your sensory journey.
The first stage is appearance and anticipation of what's to follow.
Considerable pleasure is to be gained from appreciating and describing the color and tone, its lightness or intensity, its clarity, its 'legs'.
The second stage is the whisky's aroma - neat.
The pleasure here is to describe and savour the aroma that comes from the whisky when undiluted.
Is it a complex aroma? How intense is it? Try to anticipate what is to come.
The third stage is the aroma when diluted.
The aroma will change with the addition of water.
Try adding a little water and notice how the aroma opens out.
Connoisseurs refer to this as the whisky beginning to reveal its inner secrets.
The fourth stage moves to the sense of taste. First, on the palate.
Taste the whisky in the mouth - take a good sip and let it rest and roll on the tongue for a while before swallowing.
Again pleasure is to be gained from sensory observation.
Does it feel intense on the palate?
What is the mouth-feel - thin, fat or creamy? Luxuriant or velvety.
Use the tongue to describe the texture and structure.
The fifth and most vital stage is called the finish.
This is when you swallow and really savour the whisky.
What is the taste? What is the aftertaste - is it long and lingering and satisfying?
And vitally, in the finish, is also the overall impression of the whisky, the culmination of this five stage sensory experience.
For anyone trying to pick the perfect single malt whisky, these are the 12 "cardinal flavours" to tickle the tastebuds of whisky connoisseurs. Below you will find a summary:
| Resiny / spicy
Flavours from oak
Whisky that has been aged in oak barrels gets a number of components from the wood.
One of these is cis-3-Methyl-4-octanolide, known as the "whisky lactone" or "quercus lactone", a compound with a strong coconut aroma.
Commercially charred oaks are rich in phenolic compounds.
One study identified 40 different phenolic compounds. For more detailed analysis of components derived from the barrel, ......our next article will be featuring more about barrels and their influence on whisky.