Dear Fellow Whisky Lovers,
I was asked to help a friend put together a whisky education session for some folks who had never tried single malt scotch before. As I researched the whiskies I decided that we would taste six different whiskies along with water and some crusty bread and plain soda crackers to cleanse the palate. Please do not consider this to be the definitive tutorial structure. It does give some useful information to students and instructors alike.
Each student had six glasses in front of them along with a tasting record. The students were given a brief talk on why whisky is served at room temperature and one or two drops of water may be added after the first taste of an individual whisky to release additional flavours if so desired. The addition of water is an ongoing discussion among whisky lovers. I think that it depends on the whisky and the individual tasting the whisky.
The tasting grid had the six whiskies down the side. The order of tasting was: Auchentoshan 12 years, Glenfiddich 12 years, The Macallan Gold, Arran Amorone Cask, Highland Park 12 years and Talisker 10 years. The top of the grid had colour, nose, flavour, finish and overall. The most room was given to overall.
As the student tried the individual whisky the tasting notes from the distillery that produced that whisky were read out. This was presented as one option of finding information about a particular whisky. There are many other resources that students can use to find out more. Within the group we had a wide range of opinions as to what whisky was preferred. Some liked the whisky with the most dramatic finish. Others liked the whisky that had been in wine casks to age.
It is indeed a matter of personal taste and preference. The idea of having a group tutorial is to learn together. I always encourage students to learn from one another. It is quite possible that one of the tutorial students is well versed in single malt whiskies and has brought a friend along to introduce them to the variety of heavenly elixirs available. With the proper encouragement the tutorial can be further enriched with student input.
I always take the opportunity to remind one and all that single malt whisky starts with three ingredients, malted barley, water, and yeast. It is truly amazing how many different whiskies with such a wide range of flavours began this way.
We are all learning after all!