The ultimate whiskey manual

Mar 08, 2014, 09:56 IST | Kanika Sharma

Frank Sinatra was a whiskey lover. So, to celebrate the music legend and his passion, a whiskey brand recently launched a blend in his honour. In this whiskey manual, Kanika Sharma dissects the popular spirit that India has cheered with raised glasses

Whiskey connoisseur Keshav Prakash offers a tasting guide session of the amber tipple

Read the label
>> The tasting of whiskey hardly starts from the mouth but the eye. The spirit is divided into two types, namely whiskey and whisky. The difference being that whisky is mainly used to denote Scotch whisky and liquors similar to Scotch whereas whiskey denotes Irish and American liquors.

>> Most whiskies are bottled with approximately 40% alcohol. In case of a cask strength the percentage of alcohol reaches 58 to 60%, which is very high and should be diluted for a novice.
TIP: 46% is the connoisseur’s choice.

Nose it
>> Pour the whiskey in a glass, typically one with a tapered mouth to give the alcohol enough space to breath and effuse aroma.

>> The idea is to smell the whiskey and pick aromas ranging from winey / flowery / peaty / feinty / cereal / woody / sulphury / fruity.

>> Worldwide, the Glencairn Glass is a must-recommend, and considered ideal for a whiskey lover.
Available at
Cost 2,194 per glass

Check the colour
>> Raise your glass to estimate the colour of the whiskey.

>> The colour of the whiskey typically comes from the colour of wood.

>> There are two kinds of casks used to store whiskey bourbon and sherry. Whiskey is never put into a new cask as it is too much for the brew.

>> Sherry being a darker drink, has a hued cask, that gives a stronger tone to the drink as well.

>> The darker the drink, the more complex is its composition.

Add water
>> Once nosing your drink and in case, post taking a sip, you sense the drink is too strong, add some water. The litmus test: either if your sip ends in a cough or there is an urge to almost spit, it means the drink is too strong for you.

>> There’s been a great debate about how to drink the spirit. Though ice and soda are disdained by the crème da le crème of the drinkers, in a hot climate such as ours, putting in some ice is actually a good idea. For the idealists, a splash of water will do
the trick.

Taste palate and finish
>> When whiskey is stored in barrels, there are between 400-500 flavours that the wood releases into the whiskey. Also, it is the kind of wood of the cask that defines 70% of the alcohol’s character.

>> It depends entirely on your tastebuds regarding the kind of flavours one picks up (see the Wheel, above). For instance, Prakash is accurate with sensing jackfruit, dried coconut and even Indian sweets.

>> The formula is aroma + flavour + finish. A rich aftertaste is another quality of the drink.

Single to blended
>> Single malt whisky is made from a single batch of grain mush and thus, produced in only one distillery. For it to obtain a palatable flavour, casks play an important role. 

>> Single Cask (or single barrel) whiskey uses grain mush that has been processed once. As the name suggests, the whiskey comes only from one cask and the label often carries the information of the cask. 

>> Blended malt is made from a single malt grain that was made in several different distilleries. It is the distilleries, that give it the moniker ‘blended’. 

>> Blended whiskies are made by mixing several types of malt, grain and other additives that impact the flavor of the drink. The vast majority of most popular modern whiskies are made in this way, and the names Scotch, Irish, or Canadian whisky justify the blended description. 

>> Cask strength is an extremely heady and strong variation of the whiskey. As suggested, dilution is recommended as per one’s own tastebuds.

Did you know
>> To help a first-time whiskey taster, Whiskey Flavour Wheel (see left) has been scientifically devised to identify eight main aromas that are released during production that range from grassy to biscuity (feinty) and smokey (peaty). 

>> Amrut is an Indian whiskey that is mostly exported internationally. It only has an existent market in Bengaluru, and will soon explore Mumbai. 

>> Most of the whiskey produced in India is made out of molasses and is considered rum internationally. 

>> Scotch is the whisky produced in Scotland who are considered the finest makers of whisky in the world. A minimum of three years are a pre-requisite to age the drink.

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