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Issue 2 - Sensorary evaluation

Whisky Magazine Issue 2
March 1999


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Sensorary evaluation

Charles Maclean, glass in hand, continues his course in how to taste whisky

The way that you choose to drink whisky should of course be the way that you enjoy it most. Nevertheless, to appreciate your dram to the full, in all its glorious complexity, there is nothing better than to follow the procedure adopted by professional ‘noses'. Although I shall go into this in some detail here, it is really quite simple and will soon become second nature. Ideally you should be in the company of others, for whisky tasting is above all a convivial pursuit.

Actually, whisky ‘tasting' is a misnomer. Truly, it is ‘sensory evaluation', since four of our five senses senses are used – sight, smell, taste, touch. One might even say that the fifth sense, hearing, comes into play as the cork is drawn from the bottle, or the metal cap is cracked open, not to mention the glug-glug of the first drams being poured. Further, I am assured by the former manager of Dalwhinnie distillery that the sherry-finished Distillers' Edition of his malt sounds different to the usual bottling.

Be that as it may, the different senses give rise to different stages in a tasting: sight considers appearance, smell addresses aroma (generally called ‘nose' in relation to whisky, as in ‘this malt noses well'), taste reports on flavour, and touch evaluates
mouth-feel and texture.

Pour yourself a measure of whisky. Hold it against a white surface, as you would when considering a glass of wine. Note first its colour, from gin-clear (in new-make spirit) to black coffee, with every imagi...

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