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Issue 52 - A tasteful way to understand whisky

Whisky Magazine Issue 52
November 2005


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A tasteful way to understand whisky

Pip Hills explains how his Scotch Whisky Directory can help you improve your tasting skills

There can be no doubt that science is a big improvement on astrology, necromancy and reading tealeaves as a way of predicting the future. It has its limitations, though, and is a victim of its own success when it comes to the big picture.

A century ago Jules Verne and H G Wells could predict flying ships, but there is no way they could have imagined anything like the internet or satellite television gardening makeover programmes.

These limitations are felt in the commercial applications of science, one of which is marketing. They are especially severe in the matter of marketing whisky.

The folk who sell whisky can generally give an informed opinion as to how the market will go over the next few months, but longer term predictions are notoriously fallible. This is a serious problem in an industry which can't legally sell its produce until three years after it is made and may have to sit on some of it for a generation.

Thirty years ago, few people in the Scotch whisky business would have predicted that the flavours of whiskies would become a matter of popular interest, let alone that comparative tasting would turn into a minor leisure industry.

Yet nowadays whisky tastings are common and lots of people regard the systematic inspection of a few malts as a recipe for a good night out.

It is the intrinsic interest of the flavour composition of a good whisky which makes its tasting such a pleasure – that and the subtlety of the flavours. You would be hardput to do the same ...

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