A beginner’s guide to Whisky

Gentlemen, in general, drink whisky but deciding to start drinking whisky can be quite daunting. With so many brands, terminologies and expressions out there, the Whisky world can be a maze for Whisky beginners as they delve into this unknown territory.

Whisky or whiskey is a distilled alcoholic beverage made from fermented grain mash. Various grains (which may be malted) are used for different varieties, including barley, corn (maize), rye, and wheat. Whisky is typically aged in wooden casks, generally made of charred white oak.

First of all, let’s get the spelling out of the way. The general consensus is that the spelling is solely regional, with Whiskey being used in Ireland and The U.S while Whisky is used in Scotland and other whisky producing regions. Another term used is Scotch and this refers to Scotch Whisky from Scotland.

The other terms widely used are Single Malt and Blended Whisky. Single Malt Whiskies come from a single distillery made from a mash that uses only one particular malted grain. In most cases, single malts bear the name of the distillery, with an age statement and perhaps some indication of some special treatments such as maturation in a port wine cask.

Blended Whisky on the other hand is a mixture of single malt whiskies from different distilleries.

Most seasoned Whisky drinkers tend to lean towards single malt whiskies but whichever one you decide to drink, there is no doubt it will be an enjoyable experience.

With regards to how to drink whisky, there are a few ways. You can have your whisky ‘’Neat’’, meaning just the whisky at room temperature and not mixed with anything.

Some people have whisky ‘’on the rocks’’ which is when ice is added to whisky. I strongly advice against having whisky on the rocks as the whisky could become diluted once the ice melts. Also, Ice could contain a lot of impurities which you will do well to avoid.

A third way and my suggestion is having your whisky with a few drops of water added. Adding a few drops of water to whisky opens up different, new and subtle flavours that you previously had not experienced.

When drinking whisky, the alcohol and subsequent burning sensation in your mouth can overpower even the most prominent flavours. Adding some water dilutes the alcohol and reduces its effect, giving you a chance to pick up both the prominent and subtler flavours.

Finally, you can make a cocktail using whisky or mix the whisky with ginger ale. My advice is if you intend to mix whisky, do not do this with a high-end single malt whisky. While I am not suggesting you drink bad whisky because you are mixing it, I think mixing a proper single malt whisky is a waste, a good single malt whisky should be drunk neat or with a few drops of water.

As with many things, first experiences and impressions play a massive role. Drinking and enjoying whisky is no different, drinking bad whisky the first time you drink whisky can put you off. Conversely, drinking the right whisky could and should make you appreciate whisky and eventually make drinking whisky a part of your lifestyle.

At the end of the day, you are allowed to enjoy your whisky however you please. If you want to drink it on the rocks and let the ice melt and dilute your whisky, go right ahead but please do not mix your whisky with coke, just don’t.

Here’s a list of 10 whiskies you should try if you are a first time whisky drinker.

Talisker 10-Year-Old Whisky

Ardbeg 10 Year Old Whisky

Glenfiddich 12 Year Old Whisky

Strathisla 12 Year Old Whisky

Laphroaig 10 Year Old Whisky

Macleod’s Islay 8 Year Old Whisky

The Glendronach 18 Year Old Allardice

Yamazaki 18 Year Old Whisky

Nikka Whisky from The Barrel

Lagavulin 16 Year Old Whisky