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Issue 1 - Trial by jury

Whisky Magazine Issue 1
January 1999

 

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Trial by jury

Every issue of whisky magazine will review whiskies new fot the market tasted by regular contributor Michael Jackson and Jim Murray. Here Michael prepares the way by explaining the criteria he uses when assessing a whisky and what he considers when marking out of ten

How does one unravel the flavours of whisky? How does one pin down in mere words (and worse, marks out of ten) the flavours and aromas, from ginger to cedar to hay; lavender to juniper; marzipan to pepper, that make up this most deliciously complex, teasing and satisfying of drinks?

Of course, it can't really be done; and yet I have to try. When I appraise a whisky in print, my first concern is to build up a description. You may not wholly agree with what I find, but it will have been the result of thorough nosing and tasting on my part, and a careful effort to find the right words. What follows is an account of my tasting criteria for the notes on New Releases that follow; my fellow-taster Jim Murray may well disagree with me on some points, but at least then you will know that we each have our own prejudices.

I use a tall, clear glass, shaped like a tulip or a sherry copita, to highlight colour and retain aroma. I pour the whisky at room temperature and initially sample the whiskies neat, because I wish to describe the body, texture and mouthfeel of each. I will then dilute each slightly, nosing and tasting for a second time. The purpose of this is to note the effects of the water as it opens upthe whiskies. Sometimes I will make several
degrees of dilution as I seek the most individual aromas and flavours of a particular malt. In all whiskies, I am looking for aroma, flavour, complexity and harmony, but never, ever blandness.

The finest whiskies have an interesting col...

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