Whisky: What’s in an age?
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What better way to celebrate St Andrew’s Day than with good friends over a few drams of fine whisky?
St. Andrew’s Day is Scotland’s national day. And what better way to celebrate all things Alba than with good friends over a few drams of fine whisky? With 30th November fast approaching, now is the perfect time to start organising that special St. Andrew’s Day whisky tasting.
Here’s a handful of tips if you haven’t done it before.
1. Let your friends know in advance. In some parts of the world St. Andrew’s Day is a busy party time so now is the time to start making those phone calls.
2. Select your whiskies. Organising a simple St. Andrew’s Day whisky tasting is certainly not rocket science but it’s worth giving the whisky line-up a little bit of thought. Two most common types of tastings are referred to as ‘vertical’ and ‘horizontal’.
A vertical single malt whisky tasting normally comprises of whiskies from the same distillery arranged by age in ascending order, for example: Old Pulteney 12 Year Old, Old Pulteney 17 Year Old and Old Pulteney 21 Year Old. It’s a great way to taste whisky and a very clear guide to any distillery’s house style. Even a simple vertical tasting is sure to delight your guests and provide a lot of conversation material.
If you don’t want to stretch to those older expressions however, you may try creating a horizontal whisky line-up. This is a bit more difficult to get right. One way to do it with minimum fuss is to use whiskies from the same distillery matured in different types of casks, for example: Old Pulteney Noss Head, Old Pulteney Duncansby Head and Old Pulteney Pentland Skerries. Alternatively you may choose whiskies of roughly the same age from different distilleries to compare their styles.
Remember, you don’t have to go all out. Three whiskies will usually suffice and you can ask your friends if they wouldn’t mind contributing to the cost.
3. Remember about the glassware. A whisky tasting calls for the right whisky glasses. You can use one glass per guest and just rinse it between drams but ideally you want every whisky to be in a separate glass to give the tasters an opportunity to easily compare and contrast different expressions. If you don’t have enough whisky glasses at home (small brandy balloons are also good), ask your local whisky shop if they could lend you some or ask your whisky-drinking friends.
4. Be prepared. No one will expect you to give a lecture on esterification or the thickness of cellular walls in American oak but look up some basic facts about the drams you’re putting in front of your guests. The location of the distillery, types of casks used to mature the whisky and the malt peating levels are great places to start.
5. Prepare a suitable toast. A great way to start your St. Andrew’s Day whisky tasting is with a toast to Scotland. If you want, you can write your own but there is a number of great Scottish poems, both short and long, you can use instead. Have a search around and once you’ve found something you like, rehearse it in front of the mirror once or twice – those Scottish words can be tricky.
6. Enjoy! Remember, it’s a celebration of St. Andrew’s Day so relax and have fun.
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