The Irish West Coast Trail, Tullibardine Distillery, Bourbon Pot Stills, Westland Distillery
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? The objective of this booklet is to help explain and develop your ability to interpret the signals.
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 these same signals, you can spend many happy hours talking about whisky with other experts in language you all understand.
It isn’t easy, but it is supposed to be fun. The more tasting you do, the more you begin to trust your olfactory senses. The nose is the important one; hence the Nosing Course rather than the Tasting Course. It can recognise in the region of 35,000 different smells. It can detect aromas when diluted to one part in a million. Taste is easy; you can only taste four things; sweet, salty, sour and bitter. Get these two working in harness and you are well on the way.
Charles MacLean’s Nosing Course ran in the first five issues of Whisky Magazine and is reprinted in full here. Charles was the founding editor of Whisky Magazine and Scotland’s leading whisky writer and his experience and enthusiasm are invaluable in making this booklet very approachable.
The first part of the Nosing Course sets the scene; Charles alerts us to common pitfalls in whisky tasting. He concentrates on selection of the correct glasses for whisky tasting and then considers the optimum amount (and source) of water to be added. Charles advises that the best way to taste is informally and with friends.
In part two, the nine stages to a tasting note are explained. Although nine stages might seem a lot, they will soon become second nature. The objective is that each whisky you taste should be judged within the same parameters and using the same criteria.
Part three discusses the language of whisky and features the ‘whisky wheel’; based on the first systematic attempt to define tasting terms by the Pentlands Scotch Whisky Institute in the 1970s.
For parts four and five, Charles looks at classifications. Initially, by borrowing from Wallace Milroy’s The Malt Whisky Almanac, a classification of the whisky-producing regions of Scotland is attempted. Finally, the Nosing Course discusses the possibility of producing a classification by flavour.
Following Charles’ five-part education, Michael Jackson, Whisky Magazine’s consultant editor and best-selling whisky author, explains the criteria he uses when assessing a whisky.
Overall, I hope this booklet gives an indication of the fantastic breadth of whisky. If Whisky Magazine gives you the confidence to go out and buy more whisky, to introduce friends to the subtleties, nuances and complexities of whisky, then it will have succeeded.
|Part 1 : What can your nose tell you||»|