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Issue 8 - Sense and sensibility

Whisky Magazine Issue 8
February 2000


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Sense and sensibility

Marcin Miller receives an education in whisky detection

How much do you know about whisky? I mean really know. Indeed, how much do you know about yourself? I don't mean that Freudian couch business -– rather how good is your ability to evaluate what your senses are telling you? Every person's nose has idiosyncrasies, by being aware of what they are you learn to understand what your nose is telling you. And once you can interpret the signals, you can spend many happy hours talking about whisky with other experts in language you all understand.

Essentially the one-day Whisky School course of The Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) teaches you whisky expertise by first awakening your ability to understand what your nose is already telling you, then providing the whisky production knowledge which creates the end result.

Your guide in this exploration of the senses is Dr Jim Swan assisted towards the end of the day by our own editor-at-large, Charles MacLean.

Dr Swan is profoundly patient as well as being exceptionally knowledgeable. The size of the group, which was ten on the day of my education, does allow for questions to be asked and observations to be made. However, there is an awful lot to take in.
It all kicks off with coffee and introductions, followed by an exercise in odour recognition. Do you know your lavender from your honey? Of course you do. They look different for a start. But just using your olfactory senses is harder than you might think. Only one of our group, bearing in mind they all enjoyed malt whisky, scored ...

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