Whisky has been around since at least the 1400s, and as far as we know it was invented in Scotland. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, given that whisky is one of the things Scotland is most famous for!
Whisky was first marketed as a medicinal substance, known as “Aquavitae” or “water of life”, and as we all know, it can sometimes feel as though you are drinking liquid life, when you have a fine glass of good whisky in your hand (as long as you don’t overdo it, then it can feel like the total opposite!)
Whisky is the epitome of a classy, elegant drink, enjoyed by the sorts of people who enjoy the finer things in life. You often see old movie posters, or shots of famous politicians (think Churchill, or George Washington) characterised by a glass of whisky in the hand of the main focus.
Have you ever wanted to try this look on yourself? Are you interested in trying a new spirit that you have previously shied away from? Or perhaps you have tried whisky before but didn’t like it – either because you had a low quality one or you didn’t know the best way to drink it. Well, we are here to help with these problems! Whisky drinking for beginners, here we come…
What different types are there?
There are so many whiskies out there that it can be extremely daunting to go into a shop and ask for what you want, especially if you don’t actually know what you want. Let’s have a look at a breakdown of the different types around the world, first of all.
a. Scotch Whisky
Scotch whisky is distilled in Scotland (obviously!) and is made from mostly Barley, and is aged at least three years. Scotch tends to have a pleasantly earthy, smoky flavour, and can be broken down into further subcategories:
- Blended Scotch – This is, as the name suggests, a blend of one or more Scotch whiskies.
- Single Malt Scotch – Made from malted barley and distilled at a single distillery.
b. Irish Whisky
Irish whisky is distilled in Ireland, and aged at least three years. It is a light bodied whisky, but more robust than some others.
c. American Whisky
American whisky is distilled in America and must be aged at least two years – though some can be less. American whisky is generally quite sweet, and is split into three other categories:
- Bourbon – Distilled from at least 50% corn.
- Rye – Distilled from at least 50% rye.
- Tennessee – Bourbon distilled in Tennessee, and filtered through charcoal.
d. Canadian Whisky
Canadian whiskies are generally blends of whiskies, and are usually light bodied and fruity. They are distilled in Canada and aged at least three year.
Now that you now a little more about each type of whisky, you will be better able to determine which you want to start your whisky drinking for beginners journey!
Guide to drinking
Now, down to the actual drinking. Traditionally, whisky was drunk from a tin mug, which you can do, of course – but be aware that it may make your drink taste a bit tinny. When you are wanting to experience whisky, really experience it, you will need a good glass.
You may be thinking that you can drink your expensive whisky out of a plastic glass – and you can, of course, needs must – but to really enjoy the whisky experience you should use a glass. Other materials can leach out into the whisky, affecting the flavour and aroma.
If you want to get really fancy about it, you should get hold of a specialist whisky glass. These tulip-shaped glasses will concentrate the flavours and the vapours of the whisky in a way that no other glass will achieve. If you don’t have a whisky glass, a low ball or a tumbler will do just as well.
Should you drink your whisky with ice, water or neat? This is one of the most hotly debated questions known to man!
While many purists say that you should drink it pure and unadulterated, others feel that the alcohol content may be too high. Obviously it’s up to you how you drink your whisky, but it is recommended that you try at least a sip of it neat, just to get the effect and the full flavour.
After that, many people say that adding a splash of water dilutes the alcohol just enough that you can taste the flavours of the whisky without too much punch from the spirit. If you want to add ice cubes,you should go for those with a larger surface area, that will seep water out into the drink slowly.
Before you take that first sip, having a good sniff is a great way to experience the full flavour. The first smell will likely clear your nostrils due to the high alcohol content, so take a few good deep smells and you will start to savour the true flavours of the whisky.
After you have inhaled enough that you can’t wait any more, take a small sip and just hold in it your mouth for a few moments. Rolling it around your tongue will expose all your taste buds to the drink and allow you to get the real flavours of the whisky.
Ultimately, learning how to drink whisky for beginners is about learning what you like and how you want to drink your whisky. You can read all you like, listen to all the experts in the world – but no one can tell you how to enjoy your drink.
You should start by buying a few different bottles, in different price ranges and different types, and experimenting until you find the perfect whisky drink for you.
Whether you end up preferring it net, with ice, or as a cocktail; from a glass, a fashionable hip flask, a tin mug or a Styrofoam cup, your whisky experience is for you alone. Just remember to drink responsibly, and you will really enjoy your whisky drinking for beginners experience.