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How To Taste Single Malt Whiskey

Award-winning distillers at St.Kilian Distillery tell us how to actually taste a single malt whiskey.

Distillers from award winning distillery St.Kilian share tips and tricks on how to taste your whiskey to make the most out of the experience. St.Kilian won the title of ‘Distillery of the Year’, and its St. Kilian Distillers Signature Edition FOUR took home the title of ‘Whiskey of the Year’ at the 2020 London Spirits Competition.

Which glass is best suited?

To taste whiskey, so-called “nosing glasses” in good glass quality are best suited, with a wide opening at the top for capturing all volatile aromas with the nose. The wide glass opening is an advantage when tasting, so that only the front part of the tongue is tried. In the back of the palate we taste the sometimes slightly bitter oak notes, which only appear when swallowed. The glass should be relatively thin-walled so that it can warm up when held in your hand, so thick small tumblers are not an option. With a capacity of approx. 2-4 cl, nosing glasses are optimized for this purpose.

Of course, it is perfect to taste the St. Kilian single malt whiskey in the right glasses, and not in glasses from other whiskey brands. The glasses should be clean and undamaged, a clear glass is important to recognize the color. The whiskey can also be tasted with the eyes and you can get an idea of ​​the color of the distillate.

Tasting sample notes

What else belongs to the right whiskey tasting?

Provide a suitable side dish when tasting - the spectrum ranges from fresh bread to small snacks with delicious spreads and vegetable sticks. The taste buds are neutralized between each new spirit and are almost "ready to take in" again.

With a tasting, several whiskeys can be tasted, but not too many, otherwise, the sensitive taste buds are overwhelmed; a maximum of about 4-6 whiskeys are optimal.

Water and whiskey?

Trying a whiskey in cask strength would numb the tongue and severely impair our taste sensation. Therefore, if necessary, the whiskey can be diluted in cask strength at will and taste.

Make sure to provide water for the tasting - preferably still water from glass bottles. This is important so that you can rinse the glass after each whiskey. Under no circumstances "freeze" the whiskey with ice cubes, because the fine aromas appear optimally at room temperature.

Spirit Of The Year - St. Kilian Signature Edition FOUR by St. Kilian Distillers GmbH scoring 97 points making it the top score in the 2020 London Spirits Competition

The four steps in tasting:

1. Look at the whiskey

Hold the whiskey in the glass against the light, look at the sparkle and glow. Streaks, or so-called "legs" that come from the viscosity of the whiskey, can be observed by carefully turning the glass. These can be seen particularly well in the alcohol strength range of 43-48% when the whiskey slowly runs back into the glass.

2. Extensive smell - The "Nosing"

Even if you can't believe it, the nose has a lot more taste receptors than the tongue! Let the whiskey spin and breathe in gently, the liquid in the glass turning and swirling slightly. Please do not put your nose too deep into the turned glass, otherwise, the volatile alcoholic ingredients will primarily appear and cover all other fine notes. Even the "tornado in the glass" - that is, the liquid in the glass circles too violently is not helpful to capture the desired aromas.

You can also - similar to a fine perfume - press the distillate in the glass against your hand to capture the aromas that react with the warm skin. Perceive color and smell with all senses

3. Then drink the whiskey

After extensive tasting through the nose, there is now a tasting through the tongue, over which the liquid is slowly run. This organ is a real marvel and differentiates different flavors in different regions: at the top rather sweet, in the middle rather salty and sour and at the back then the bitter notes. Let the whiskey "roll" extensively over the tongue and do not swallow it immediately. Through the deliberate "rinsing" in the mouth, all areas of the palate, lips, and underside of the tongue are addressed and thus intensify the taste experience.

4. Enjoy the aftertaste at the end

How long do the different flavors stay in the mouth, do more appear afterward and is the sweetness or the smoke more present after enjoyment? These questions should be asked in peace and then, if necessary, write down your comments about the tasting of the whiskey.

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