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Issue 31 - It's all in the mix

Whisky Magazine Issue 31
June 2003


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It's all in the mix

Ian Wisniewski argues that whisky liqueurs have every right to be taken seriously as a drinks category

I prefer proper whisky,” is the stance of the more militant malt brigade on the subject of whisky liqueurs, as though they're somehow improper compared to whisky. What kind of an attitude is that?

Whisky liqueurs should be judged as a separate category with its own merits, and not as an ‘adulterated' form of whisky. Then anyone who wants to abstain from whisky liqueurs can do so with self justification; on the basis of the relevant criteria, which is the flavour delivery, rather
than prejudice.

As malts were originally served in the style of a liqueur, the category has genuine heritage and thus a totally legitimate status.

Admittedly, back then this sort of serving style stemmed entirely from necessity, rather than catering for particular preferences, as early distillation equipment was inevitably crude.

This yielded a raw, rasping spirit drink, compromised of a host of unattractive aromas and flavours.

As maturation was also an alien concept for early distillers, the only way of improving the spirit was adding ‘distractions' to soften and sweeten the palate. Natural products such as herbs and heather honey became an essential element of a distiller's repertoire.

This also explains the reason for serving whisky in the form of a punch, a concept that reached Scotland (and the rest of the world) from India. The original definition of the Hindu panch, meaning ‘five,' referred to the number of ingredients combined to prepare a punch: sugar, lime juice, spices, water...

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