If all has gone well, I should be in Speyside when you read this, with plans over the next few days to visit George Grant at Glenfarclas, as well as The Glenrothes distillery, Aberlour, and Balvenie.
Originally Posted – November 16, 2005
Through the Tasting Glass
I get a lot of suggestions from people for stories that I should write.
Kevin, how about a story on Irish Whiskey?
Hmm. Nothing wrong with Irish Whiskey. It’s great in a Car Bomb*, but it’s just not my thing.
But Ronnie Cox, the Director at The Glenrothes had a great suggestion:
to meet you Kevin. I believe you are starting something very
interesting with your Scotch Blog. One of the key subjects that needs
higher profiling is the glass type. As in most countries the tumbler is
associated with whiskey. Need to tell people that to really appreciate
Malt Whisky we need some sort of tulip shape to take the image
correctly from one of drinking to one of savouring.
I do briefly mention the use of the proper glass in my book:
glass favored by blended whisky drinkers is a short, cylindrical
tumbler, usually referred to as a scotch or “rocks” glass. This type of
glass is fine for tasting a blend with some ice, but is completely
unsuited for the subtlety of malt whisky.
A tulip-shaped tasting
glass is ideal for single malt, but if all you can get your hands on is
a sherry or brandy glass, either will work just as well.
tumbler/rocks glass does nothing to enhance the whisky drinking
experience, instead it is simply a glass that is readily available at
bars, restaurants, and in the average home.
The picture above is The Glencairn Glass, a very popular whisky tasting glass designed specifically for the Scotch whisky industry and introduced in 2001.
The glass was
designed with a tapered mouth to focus the aroma while at the same time
being open enough to make it easy to drink from. This was married to a
robust base that is comfortable in the hand and allow gentle warming of
the liquid to open it up, resulting in a stylish attractive glass, a
base to keep the hand clear of the liquid and it has no cuts or
decoration that would obscure the colour while at the same time being
easy to drink from.
If you don’t have a proper tasting glass, you really need to get one. Ronnie’s point is well taken.
David Wishart, Author of Whisky Classified:
To truly savor all that a single malt has to offer, the proper shape is of the utmost importance.
nosing glass used in the whisky industry is tulip shaped like a sherry
glass with a narrow mouth…The narrow mouth is important for
containing the aroma that rises from the whisky, so that when we nose
it we get the maximum fragrance.
Many restaurants and bars don’t (or can’t) carry the appropriate
drinking vessel for every beverage, but you are really cutting your
experience in half if you accept a single malt Scotch in a rocks glass
from a restaurant or bar.
If I am trying a Scotch at a nice restaurant, I can be very
demanding. And at $10-$20 per dram, why shouldn’t I be? Sometime
though, I just test the bartender.
The first thing I do is look at the Scotch menu. If it has less than
ten bottles on it, I know I’ll have to be specific, because chances are
good that they don’t get a lot of Scotch orders. I’m never surprised to
see that one or more of the distillery’s names have been misspelled. I
always point it out to the bartender.
Then I order. Now I know a lot of the distilleries have interesting,
sometimes hard-to-pronounce names, but I never fail to be amused when I
order one, and the bartender doesn’t understand me:
Kevin: I’ll have the La-froyg
Ignorant bartender: Huh?
Kevin: The La-froyg, that one (pointing to Laphroaig)
Ignorant bartender: Oh is that how you say it?
Or when the bartender incorrectly corrects me:
Kevin: I’ll have the Glen-fid-ick
Smarmy bartender: You mean Glen-fidd-itch?
Kevin: Yes, but it’s pronounced Glen-fid-ick
Smarmy bartender: No it’s not.
Smarmy bartender: You want that on ice?
Kevin: Check, please.
But when I don’t feel like training the bar staff for free, I get straight to the point:
have the Macallan 18, neat, with a small glass of room temperature
water on the side. If you don’t have a whisky tasting glass, I’ll have
that in a brandy snifter. Thanks.
You’d be surprised at the street-cred you’ll get from a good bartender when you know how to order.
But more importantly you’ll experience Scotch the proper way, with a
glass that allows you to aerate the whisky, a glass that concentrates
the bouquet, and a glass that makes it tough to fit an ice cube into.
*If you read The Scotch Blog regularly, you know that I have since broadened my horizons and DO talk about non-Scotch whiskies.
Irish Car Bomb
8 oz Guinness stout
1 oz Bailey’s Irish cream
1 oz Irish Whiskey (Jameson’s)
Combine the Bailey’s and Whiskey in a shot glass.
Drop shot glass into beer.