Whisky drinking is akin to wearing a suit; you need a tailored fit.
Whilst many purists will assure you that ‘neat’ is the nectar style to go for, no one can dram up your measurements better than you.
Here’s some classic whisky drinking styles, try them out and suit up.
Whisky straight up, on its own, is the championed method of many connoisseurs.
This method can taste overpowering if you’re not used to alcohol, but it does lend itself to showcasing the various flavour notes in your drink.
Spices, sweetness and woody tones, particularly of single malts, can be picked apart most easily when offered to the palate in their purest form.
However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the best way to taste whisky. Only bow to peer pressure and drink whisky this way if you love it; otherwise ditch the hardcore demeanour and get over it.
On the rocks
‘Scotch on the rocks’ still sounds pretty hardcore anyway, doesn’t it?
This could be a refreshing drinking method if you’re trying to acclimatise yourself to whisky, but it does adulterate some of the flavour, for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, the cold temperature will numb your tongue and compromise your ability to taste a spectrum of notes and secondly, as the cold ice melts it will both dilute the whisky and take some of the flavours away entirely. For that reason, most people will order blended whisky on the rocks, rather than investing in an expensive single malt.
A clever alternative is whisky stones. These actual stones are placed in the freezer before making it to your glass, and relieve you of the dilution problem, whilst still giving you the chilled serving.
Drops of water
Some people believe that adding a few drops of water to your whisky actually releases the flavours.
This one is probably for you if you feel that the pungent taste of alcohol can mask flavour for you. With a little dilution, the initial smack is less intense and you can access the notes immediately, and arguably pick up on more subtle ones.
Others will say that the dilution still compromises the spirit. We say; legal drinking age dictates that we should all be grown up enough to make our own decisions.
Who doesn’t love a hot toddy of a winter’s evening?
Warming whisky up comes with some of the same problems as cooling it down; the tasting notes are at their peak at room temperature and so drastically changing this will alter or efface some of them.
However, whisky is believed to have medicinal qualities, and there is a lot to be said for ditching sophistication and enjoying a warming whisky in bleaker days.
To make a hot toddy, some people will add twists such as lemon, honey, cinnamon or other spices such as cloves. All of these can complement the drink beautifully, but they will also go towards masking its original flavour. Regardless, the elixir beckons more convincingly than a cup of cocoa.
Mixing whisky and tea is not at all uncommon in Japan, China and other parts of Asia.
Far from a cheap blended whisky mixer, the Chinese are disposed to a combination of single malt whisky and hand-picked tea. No wonder it tastes good.
Often floral notes from teas such as Darjeeling can balance the dry fruitiness of a whisky, softening its flavour whilst adding even more aromatics. Meanwhile, whisky iced green tea is a crisp and clean-cut alternative.
Dave Broom, author of The World Atlas of Whisky pointed out the similarities between tea and whisky, such as their tropical flavours, smokiness and malt qualities. For instance, there is a strong link between smoky Lapsang Souchong, and peaty Islay malts.
If you fancy a long drink to take you into the small hours, or refresh you on a hot day, this could be your bag.
As outlandish as this sounds, it essentially adding a fizzy drink to your whisky. This can sweeten the drink, as well as soften the hangover.
The Japanese love to add soda to their whisky, whilst over in the west we enjoy additions such as coke and lemonade. Purists may mock, but if you like the taste, let them.
Just because whisky tastes so good neat, doesn’t mean it doesn’t marry well with other things. In actual fact, whisky tastes great in various cocktails and keeps enough character to give them a kick and give them more credibility than a daiquiri.
The Manhattan, the Whisky Sour, the Mint Julep…they wouldn’t have survived the century if they weren’t good. It’s just probably not advisable to splash your Macallan 50YO around with sugar syrup, in terms of long term pension plans.
However, some popular complements to a stellar blend include rosemary, bitter lemon, ginger, blood orange, honey, berries, fig, mint and limes.
Mind you, still keep the drinks at least two parts whisky; it’s not vodka, you don’t need to pretend it’s not there.
What a shame, you have all these different drinking styles to try.