What should we have with whiskey

Recognizing a Good Whiskey: Simple Tips

Are you a total whiskey layman and want to change that? No problem if you know where to start. We have a few tips for you.

Anyone who does not like whiskey from experience has tried the wrong one: Sometimes the type was simply not chosen correctly - even the greatest whiskey lover cannot be enthusiastic about all flavors. But in most cases the whiskey was no good. If you dare to come here as a student and have no money, it's no wonder. It's time for a second chance - but this time with a few finer wines.

There are plenty of ways to taste a whiskey without buying a large bottle: In well-stocked drinks stores there are countless miniatures that are enough for around two samples. Various adult education centers also offer whiskey seminars for beginners. Some shops or restaurants host whiskey tastings, which is also a "contact" option. Here, however, you should at least have a basic knowledge so as not to attract attention as a beginner in the obligatory shop talk. With the first experiences, the curiosity to learn more about origin, the art of distilling and the history of whiskey increases.

Whiskey or whiskey?

Since there are countless whiskeys, sorting them first helps: Blended whiskeys, which are available for less than ten euros at discount stores, are excluded from tasting, with a few exceptions. A blend is a blend of malt and grain whiskey, with the proportion and quality of the malt whiskey having a decisive influence on taste and price.

Blended whiskeys are made to be given as a mixed drink, an overly characteristic taste is only annoying. There are also extremely old and expensive blends, but the price-performance ratio of single malts is better in these price regions, these are unblended distillates made from barley malt, each from a distillery. Still, it can't hurt to have tried a blended whiskey once. And without coke. (You can find out more about the difference here)

Should it even be a scotch whiskey? Maybe you prefer Irish. Or the American one, which is distilled not from barley but from corn and is called bourbon. But then you have to have the whiskeWrite y with E. There is also excellent Japanese and German whiskey. Most of the time, however, it is produced like in Scotland and can therefore be better compared with this one.

Regional conditions

The different (Scottish) whiskey regions also stand for different characteristics of the whiskey types. Highland malts tend to be mild, while the whiskey from the coast is rough, with traces of grass, seaweed or salt. The island whiskeys, especially from Islay (read: ei-la), have a peaty aroma and are very smoky. If you are a smoker yourself, you will likely like the latter. Non-smokers are less enthusiastic.

The reason for the differences in taste can be explained by the regional conditions. Grain and spring water come from the respective region, plus they are stored in a wooden barrel, which is also exposed to the local conditions. The Scottish west coast is often rough, stormy and the sea air is salty, which is reflected in the smell and taste.

Further taste nuances are due to the barrel in which the whiskey was stored. In addition to the usual bourbon and sherry barrels of various types such as Pedro Ximenez or Oloroso, these are also those in which wine, port, Madeira, rum or cognac matured.

Pure or with water

As with wine, we can use three of our senses to assess whiskey. Apart from the color and the taste, this is the smell, so if possible it should be left pure and in a nosing glass that tapers slightly towards the top in order to better accentuate the bouquet. The addition of a little water is quite common, especially with whiskey at barrel strength at well over 50 percent by volume. On the other hand, thick tumblers with a lot of ice are not at all suitable, the aroma evaporates in the wide glass, the cold numbs the taste buds.

A good whiskey can be recognized by many details. The storage time is decisive for the maturity of a distillate. But that doesn't mean that you just have to wait long enough, the quality also has to be right. Some whiskeys taste unfinished even after ten years, but five years later they taste sensational. Some are perfect after twelve years and lose their strength and taste over time. Incidentally, whiskeys only mature in the barrel; this process stops after bottling. You can't save money by buying a ten year old and putting it away for another five years. You can only be unlucky that the cork will crumble at some point.

Here you can see how good a whiskey is

The color gives a first impression of the quality. The darker the whiskey, the more it has received from barrel aging. This is generally a good sign - but unfortunately many manufacturers help here with sugar colourants. The addition is unproblematic for the taste, but then the color tone loses its expressiveness.

The outstanding characteristic of a good whiskey is its complexity. The first impression of smell and taste is different from the second and third. Does it taste like it for a long time or does it dissipate quickly? The more different smell and taste nuances you can perceive, the better. You will enjoy it for a long time because you are always discovering something new. So take your time, some drops only reveal their secrets after a certain time, especially the older vintages.

Marzipan or oak?

Depending on the type and age, the aromas of light, mild whiskeys range from light fruits, coconut and nuts to lemon, grapefruit, vanilla or marzipan - some are noticeably sweet. Stronger malts have echoes of oak, smoke and dark fruits or sometimes taste like peat, seaweed or even tar, to name just a few examples.

If you want to taste several varieties in succession, you'd better start with what is supposedly the lightest one, i.e. with a Lowland or Highland malt, increase over the coast to the island whiskeys. If there is an Islay malt in the collection, it should be in the last place.

Effort and demand

The price tag doesn't say how good a whiskey is. This includes, among other things, how much effort was put into production. Older age groups are therefore inevitably more expensive. Younger whiskeys sometimes offer more for the money, as long as they are not too young. But that depends on the individual case. You can get a good whiskey that has been matured for ten to twelve years for as little as 30 euros. We give tips in our photo show.

Whiskey is in trend, and the resulting high demand is driving up prices for better wines in particular. Cheaper varieties usually mature in bourbon casks, of which there are plenty. The number of sherry barrels, however, is limited. It becomes particularly expensive if the whiskey remains in the sherry cask for the full storage time. In contrast to this, when finishing, the distillate is only transferred from the bourbon to the sherry barrel at the end of the maturation period.

Whiskey trails in Scotland

If you have become a fan, you will certainly also be interested in a guided tour of a distillery. Most distilleries have something like this on offer, and the event is often a real experience. Only here you can see up close how a whiskey is made. Incidentally, it is especially the small, original distilleries that attract attention. Edradour, Blair Athol or Glendronach may be mentioned here as examples. But something better known such as Aberlour and Balvenie should also be emphasized. This list does not claim to be complete.

Depending on the region, you can visit several distilleries in a short time, even on foot. The distillery density is particularly high around the well-known Glenfiddich distillery near the village of Dufftown (there it is also worth making a detour to the Walkers biscuit factory, which produces the famous shortbred). A signposted Malt Whiskey Trail leads north from Edinburgh to the coast and back again via another route. There are also organizers for guided tours such as the "Reisekultouren" agency in Detmold, and the prices for the various tours range from 200 to 4000 euros.