Irish Whiskey– there’s a lot of it, and it can be hard navigating a tasty and satisfying way through the amazing choices on offer.
What you need is a guide, and who better than me to help you discover the drams you’ll love.
First things first
Ah yes, the nose. This is perhaps the most important part of assessing a whiskey. Most drams will reveal more to your olfactory system than to your palate; in fact, as most experts will say, tasting is simply to confirm what your nose has already told you.
But what does it tell you? First, give the whisky a swirl to release the aromas then carefully bring it to your nose. The methods of nosing Irish whiskey has a slight difference from, say, nosing wine. Hold the lip of the glass at the between your nose & philtrum and gently inhale through your mouth. This allows for a subtle introduction to the aromas of the whiskey. Due to the high alcohol content in whiskey, a big sniff with the nose can sting and/or numb the nostrils.
Now, to the tasting part of your whiskey tasting. As well as confirming or disabusing those impressions gleaned by the nose, pay attention to the feel of the whiskey in your mouth, or mouthfeel if you will. Is it soft and rolling or hot and immediate? Is it drying or refreshing and lively? You should also pick up any sweetness, or lack of, in the whisky, as well as those other basic flavours courtesy of the tongue. Your palate will also tell you how the whiskey is structured. Is there a definite beginning, middle and end to this story? When are different tastes introduced? And does it have a satisfying conclusion?
After swallowing the whiskey, what are you left with? This, unsurprisingly, is the finish Is it short, medium or long? Dry or smooth? Are there new flavours to be found now things have quietened down a bit?
And now, it’s time to do it all again, but this time, add some water! Whether you normally take your whiskey with water is of course down to personal taste, but when tasting whiskey, adding a drop or two of H2O is simply a way of gleaning more information. Water opens up a whisky, revealing the intricate workings of a dram’s flavour, helping you identify the constituent parts more easily. And remember that sniffing and sipping a few high abv whiskies will quickly numb your nose and your palate, so bear this in mind when undertaking a serious tasting session.