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How to Fall in Love with Whisky

By: Chris Kitson

Posted on 05 October 2016

Only Drink Good Whisky

It seems so obvious, but there aren’t many worse drinks than a bad Scotch. If it’s under 40% ABV, and doesn’t tell you anything about the liquid inside, it isn’t the bottle to win you over. This doesn’t mean you can only buy super-premium whisky, but stay clear of the bargain shelves.

Just Add Water

Most distilleries bottle their Whisky between 40-45% ABV, but before that it sits at a Cask Strength closer to 65%. Aside from the special cask strength releases, all whisky is blended with water to get it down to a more palatable level of alcohol.

So the fact that there are people who consider watering your whisky to be a cardinal sin has always confused me.

If 40% is too strong for your palate, add water drop by drop until it no longer burns. It’s a drink enjoy, not a challenge for your taste buds!


Find the Right Style for You

The classic styles of fruity Speysides and Smoky Islays still persist, but modern producers are doing their best to cater for all tastes.

If you want the light, aromatic quality of an Islay without the peat smoke, Bruichladdich produce an unpeated beauty. If you want treacle and raisin notes just look for anything finished in a Pedro Ximenez cask.

Most of all, try different styles next to each other. A tasting kit, or visit to a specialist whisky bar, would both be a perfect place to start.

Embrace the Blend

For some, Single Malt is the only way, and the word “blend” on a whiskey bottle is nothing more than a label of poor quality.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Single Malt means that the whisky is made entirely at one distillery, using only malted barley. It’s no guarantee to the quality of that distillery, or the barley used. So, for me, it’s become a meaningless term when looking for a great bottle.

Blending together whisky from multiple distilleries, even across regions of Scotland, can create some of the most interesting, well-balanced whisky you’ll ever drink.

A heavily peated Islay might be too much for some. But a small amount blended into a honeyed highland, with some grain whisky added in for spice? Now you’ve got a touch of smoke surrounded by other flavours. Sound appealing? Well that whisky would have to be labelled as “Blended Whisky” even if it was made to world-class level.

Whisky doesn’t need to be scary. Try these tips, and before you know it you’ll have a shelf full of bottles. Next, you won’t settle for anything less than the most heavily peated, cask-strength limited releases.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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