Enjoying a glass of something strong is a good way to end the night every now and then. But do you know how to actually get the best out of the experience? Here's a quick and dirty take on how to get the most fun, flavor, and enjoyment. I was reading some of Chris's posts about whiskey on ManMade while polishing off a small glass of the good stuff a few nights ago, and for some reason it just didn't feel right; mostly because I was drinking it out of a highball glass with crushed ice. I know; I got lazy. But that made me think a bit about what I was missing out on, what flavors were lost in my approach, and what my Uncle Art (visualize the quintessential 1950's man) would think if he could see me doing it. So, I set out to figure out how to enjoy like a true connoisseur.
Choosing the Drink - There are so many kinds of whiskey to pick from, take a look at these 6 and find your favorite. Then come back here to take a look at how to drink it best.
The Glass - First, the glass is a huge amount of the experience. Using a rounded, stemmed glass is the best way to funnel the aroma of the drink to the nose, and gives the glass room to be held without warming it. The Glencairn glass is the standard for the whisk(e)y industry. If you prefer something a little less omnitasker, these 10 oz heavy bottom rocks glasses work great.
- Glencairn Whiskey Glasses ($25 for 4)
- Taylor'd Milestones 10 oz. rocks glasses ($19.99 for a set of two)
The Ice - I'm usually a fan of the neat pour myself, straight up and room temperature to let the flavors really stand out. But when the heat is on, I'll enjoy one chilled, particularly a bourbon or blended whiskey. When that happens, it's best to have large cubes of ice to slow the dilution of the drink as much as possible. While normal cubed ice works, consider picking up a silicon mold that forms up large round ice balls or, even better, soapstone "whiskey stones" that cool without melting.
Now that we're done with the tools, let's talk technique. Pour about an ounce in your glass and take a look at it. You should see a brown, caramel-colored drink that leaves legs on the glass. Without swirling, take a long deep breath above the glass (no need to stick your nose in too far, it's potent enough to smell from a distance).
The Aromas - These cask-heavy drinks are packed with hints of oak, smoke, vanilla and caramel. With a proof upwards of 40 or more it's easy for this syrupy brew to be overwhelming in both flavor and smell if you don't respect it. Don't swirl the glass, as this can bring out the bitterness.
The Sip - Now comes the sip. Take a deep breath, hold it, then take a small sip. Let it sit on the middle of the tongue and coat your mouth before swallowing. Then breathe out and enjoy the flavor. The warmth in the chest and the distinct flavors will shine through. The benefit of holding a breath while swallowing is that it tends to minimize the burning and bitterness of the drink and helps to open up the flavor profile. This works with other spirits as well, anything with a thick consistency will benefit from this approach.
Now you know the right tools to really enjoy your next nightcap. But always remember that however you enjoy it - really enjoy it. Cheers!