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Issue 16 - How to taste....

Whisky Magazine Issue 16
June 2001


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How to taste....

Pip Hills, author of Appreciating whisky, elucidates on the subject of tasting whisky- a seemingly simple exercise that requires a wee bit of thought before being fully appreciated.

The editor has asked me to write a few words on taste and tasting. It's a big subject and the basics have been well covered elsewhere, so I will restrict myself to a few topics which I think may be of interest. They are of interest to me, anyway, and hopefully will be to those of you who have progressed a little beyond the hyperbole which so often passes for information about Scotch whisky.

It's a fair bet that if you bought this magazine, you are interested in what whisky tastes like: the notion of flavour in whisky is central to the concerns of the magazine and to most of the Scotch whisky industry. The latter wasn't always true: the mere idea that folk should care about what whisky tastes like, is a relatively new one. It arose from – or, rather, it was the cause of – the malt revolution. Until ten or fifteen years ago, very few people bought whisky because they expected it to taste nice. That is still the case for lots of whisky drinkers. Most brand-marketing works by getting people to buy things because of the things' associations rather than their intrinsic quality. Lots of blended whisky is sold to people who couldn't care less what it tastes like and who value only the associations of the brand. Indeed, the fact that whisky has flavour makes it hard to sell to huge numbers of folk, especially the young, who by and large prefer to drink alcoholic fruit juice.

Alcopops notwithstanding, taste is the most subtle of our senses. We can discern the presence of some f...

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