“Single malt is for thinkers, blended whiskies for drinkers.”
I used to think whisky appreciation comes off as somewhat intimidating or pretentious but it’s actually not that difficult to appreciate the finer complexities of these spirits if you have an open mind and are willing to learn. It can even be a lot of fun!
I’ve always loved my Islay whiskies for its smokey, peated heaviness. But last night, I was initiated into the world of the Speyside whisky in the form of Glenrothes’ vintage single malts dating all the way back to 1968 in a dinner showcase. This is so rare there are only 6 bottles available for sale in Singapore. And I was so lucky to partake in a $500 dram.
But before I tell you more about the 1968 and the experience savouring such a precious vintage, I’m really excited to share some of the more interesting tips on appreciating single malts with Global Brand Ambassador of Glenrothes — the warm and very knowledgeable Ronnie Cox. Seated right next to him for the night, I was lucky to be able to ask as much as I liked about his stories in whisky making and appreciation.
So, here’s sharing some awesome tips from the very enlightening session so you can enjoy your whiskies better too!
1. You’ll get the best out of a single malt when drinking out of a tulip-shaped glass (like above), rather than large cognac glass or any bowl-shaped glass. This is because the tulip shape holds all the aromas for better nosing and you can more accurately determine the character of the whisky.
2. This one is fun. To get an even better idea of the whisky’s true character, dip a clean finger into the dram and rub the liquid on the back of your hand to evaporate it. As the liquid evaporates, the solid particles left behind will give you the true palate of the whisky and if you sniff this, comparing it to nosing the dram directly from the glass, you’ll find that the aromas on the back of the hand yield more complex and accurate results.
3. Adding water to a whisky reveals its complexity, making it smoother and more buttery in taste. Adding different amounts of water allows you to appreciate the different elements in the whisky’s taste profile.
4. Always take at least 2-3 sips before deciding if you like a whisky. Usually, our palates get a bit of a shock on the first sip and we might not fully appreciate its unique character until our palates acclimatise to the whisky on the second or third sips.
5. Have heavier, smokier whiskies later in the day or only after your meals. This is because smoke overwhelms the palate and can interfere with your sense of taste especially when enjoying meal. If you’ve ever had a cigar and tried to eat immediately after, you’ll be able to relate.
And finally, I’d like to share about that dram of Glenrothes Vintage 1968 that a lucky few of us managed to try.
In the 1968, the second-fill remade hogshead cask was filled on the 19th November 1968, yielding just 145 bottles at a natural strength of 41.9% alcohol by volume. This expression is unchillfiltered and, like all Glenrothes’ bottlings, of completely natural colour. Here are some notes we received about it taste.
Bright gold with scarlet notes of burnished copper.
The Glenrothes in its spring-like idiom. Rose petals and face cream, tinned peaches, apricots in syrup, mirabelles in honey. Beeswax polish and candles.
Text-book Glenrothes creamy texture with exemplary integration; mascarpone with orange blossom, very lively with white pepper and Turkish delight.
Leathery and spicy dryness with a reprise of the Turkish delight. A single cask of extreme complexity and elegance.
It truly was a privilege to learn about whisky from such a learned, experienced and passionate individual and it’s got me even more curious and fascinated by one of the most iconic spirits in the world. I hope you are too! (;