Whisky – A Guide

Towards the end of the first season of Mad Men, Don Draper pitches an idea to Kodak for their new projector. It is the latest development in picture technology and shaped like a UFO – it’s billed as a look into the future. But everyone’s favourite Ad Executive sees something different in the circular wheel of images, something much more powerful than a glitzy new toy.

He convinces the men at Kodak that their latest project should be called ‘The Carousel’ and utters the immortal words: “Nostalgia. It’s delicate but Potent.” It’s a crowning moment in what has become a televisual goliath, but as you loosen your tie after a hard day at work, stretch out and pour yourself a whisky, it’s easy to see the comparisons. Of course AMC’s series has breathed new life into the tipple, but it’s what this drink stands for that has made it appealing for hundreds of years.

When you take a sip, you can be Clark Gable, star of the silver screen, Winston Churchill enjoying whisky and water in a highball glass, or even Frank Sinatra crooning your way through a bottle in Vegas. And of course, you can be Don Draper, the finest mind on Madison Avenue.

Made from a few simple ingredients, the complexity of how a premium whisky is created is astounding and only adds to the mystique that surrounds this one-of-a-kind spirit. The breadth of whisky making techniques and geographical locations means no one bottle is the same, however you might want to consider the following tips when beginning your tasting experience.

Drinking whisky with water is a common occurrence but first, try sipping it neat and notice how the taste and aroma changes. Mixers are no longer frowned upon either –an Old Fashioned can often be the ideal end to a long day.

Pour your first glass and, keep  your mouth open to fully take in the aromas. Remember that whisky isn’t only for enjoyment on its own, it can also be a great complement to foods such as chocolate, smoked fish, cold meats and cheese. As Don Draper demonstrates, whisky is best enjoyed in the company of friends and sharing a tasting session together can be a great way to learn more about the spirit. Despite its complexities, whisky is all about taste. Whether your ideal spirit is from an age-old dusty bottle or a newly-purchased premium blend, only you know your preferences.

Whiskies can be put into four categories; explore the below prior to your first tasting or before buying a bottle.

  • Single malt – Distilled at one distillery from water and malted barley without the addition of any other ingredients. No product from any other distillery will go into a single malt.
  • Single grain – Distilled at one distillery from water and malted or unmalted grains. Whilst often used for blending, excellent single grain whiskies are available on the market.
  • Blended – A blend of one or more single malts, with one or more grain whiskies. These are some of the most popular high-end spirits in the world and a worthy addition to any drinks cabinet or home bar.
  • Blended malts – A blend of single malt whiskies that have been distilled at more than one distillery.