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Issue 69 - The eternal question

Whisky Magazine Issue 69
January 2008


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The eternal question

In the latest in the series on whisky terms Dominic Roskrowlooks at the letters N and O.

Water or no water? This is quite possibly the question asked most often by whisky converts as they set out on their journey of discovery.And it's question with no straightforward answer.

Whole chapters and even books have been written on how to appreciate whisky, and in particular malt whisky, and key to this process is nosing.

The termhas not sprung up by accident.To fully appreciate whisky the nose is an indispensable tool.

While taste is obviously an essential part of a process, the nose is a more sensitive conveyor of sensation than the mouth is, and can pick up hundreds of different aromas.

So what is the correct way to nose?

Firstly, let's not get too prescriptive about this.The idea of nosing is to have fun – it's not about turning whisky tasting into a university study group. So first and foremost, find a way that suits you best.

This may or may not involve adding water but it's worth pointing out that a very high percentage of people do add a small amount of water for two very good reasons.

One,because the high alcohol content can burn the nose and make appreciation of any other aromas difficult.This is especially true with cask strength whiskies.

And two, a small amount of water will change the molecular structure of the whisky, releasing aroma compounds and ‘opening up'the whisky.As someone once put it, a rose garden smells nicer after a spring shower.

What is important to nosing whisky is the correct glass. If you try and nose whisky in a tumbler you ...

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