How to Understand Whiskey Guide
Ah whiskey, the sophisticated drink, the adult’s drink. The true measure that you are done simply drinking alcohol just to drink, and drink for the appreciation of taste.
Now, surely we’ve all found ourselves in that position where everyone else at the table has something profound to say about whiskey, but your mind is just blank. Grain? Barrel? Spicy? Creamy? Are we talking about the same drink here?
The answer is: yes. This age-old drink has unique flavors that are worth talking about. In fact, you might even find yourself in the company of those who enjoy talking about the drink more than they do even drinking it. So let us help you be more prepared with this quick guide to understanding everything you need to know about whiskey.
The first thing you should know about whiskey is that it comes from grains. The grains are soaked in hot water, which removes sugars and are later fermented to create alcohol. Each grain gives the alcohol a unique taste. The main types of grains used in whiskey are:
- malted barley- roasty taste with a dry finish
- corn- strong and sweet, eventually mellows out
- rye- spicy like black pepper and cinnamon
- wheat- soft and light, the most common
If the first thing someone says is how nicely the whiskey has aged, forget it. When it comes to whiskey, in truth, aging is just a number. The quality of taste that results from what most people think is aging, is actually from the interaction of the whiskey with the temperature and environment, barrel, and a number of other factors. If you want to sound sophisticated, try to talk about one of these factors instead.
Then there’s the barrels. Few people know how important the barrel is to whiskey, for everything from its color to its taste. The only type of wood used for whiskey barrels is oak, but there are different kinds of oak wood.
- American oak is the newest type of oak to be used mostly because it is the most economic. It also packs in a significant amount of vanillin.
- European oak on the other hand is the most traditional type of wood to be used, and is ideal for the finish of the whiskey.
- Japanese oak which also creates an intense quantity of vanillin, is used, but rare. These barrels are often prone to damage and leaking, but create a truly unique flavor.
Go ahead, take a quick whiff of your whiskey before sipping. If you barely had to hold it up to your nose and you could still smell it, with a slight sting to the nose, then you know it is a young whiskey. (Not that age matters), but in the company of all those whiskey-connoisseurs, now you know why some smells are sharper than others.
When its time to enjoy some real whiskey, spicy food and coffee are especially off limits. These bold tastes will no doubt alter the flavor of your whiskey. Anyone will tell you that a fresh palate is the best way to enjoy whiskey as you’re learning how to taste.
Only the most experienced whiskey-tasters will be able to identify the strong fresh fruit flavors of either apple, pear, or pineapple. If you’re sitting at a table with the whiskey experts, learn to acknowledge these tastes and bury them deep into memory so that you may sound like an experienced whiskey-fanatic as well.
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