Teach Yourself the Art of Spotting a Good Single Malt
Becoming knowledgeable about whiskey might seem like an extremely difficult task for anyone with only a basic understanding of the spirit – what, with all the talk of flavor, notes, and profiles. For anyone really keen to learn, however, there are some key things to understand about whiskey that can lay the foundations for you to become an expert (or at least a very well-informed amateur!).
It’s time to get out your favorite Glencairn glass, have the cigar rest at the ready, and learn the basics of whiskey so you can spot the best single malts.
Understanding Flavor Profiles
The term “profile” is used to explain the varying flavors and characteristics of a whiskey. There are four popular flavor profiles.
A single malt with a smoky profile will give off spicy, warm, and smoky flavors. Think of burned wood or smoked meat, and compare these dark, spicy flavors with a glass of single malt.
A rich profile will be bold and full of flavor. Think of an extremely rich chocolate cake, and compare that flavor and sensation with the taste you get from your single malt.
A whiskey with a delicate profile has subtle flavors, making it easy to drink and enjoy. Delicate profiles will typically have a sweeter flavor, with subtle floral and nutty hints.
A light whiskey will have fruity, nutty, and even grassy notes, leaving a fresh feeling in the mouth.
Over time, these descriptors will come to you more naturally. These are almost instinctual responses to the single malt whiskeys that you will drink, and the difference between these flavor profiles will become increasingly evident over time.
Where Whiskey Gets its Woody Flavors
Wood plays a hugely important role in the creation of quality whiskeys. When the spirit is first made, it’s known as “new make.” This is a whiskey that has been reduced in strength, and which has yet to be aged in a cask.
The casks used by the distillers will determine the flavors of the whiskey. Not only does the type of wood play a part in developing intriguing flavors, but so does the other booze that was previously held in the cask!
A quality single malt will have flavors taken from the sherry or bourbon that was previously held in the wooden casks.
Know the Age
The age of your whiskey can determine quality. It’s a classic husband gift – an aged whiskey, in a dusty bottle that has just been waiting to be opened on a special occasion. However, the age of a bottle is doesn’t always determine how great it tastes.
You should look for anything that has been aged for between 10 and 15 years. This is typically a suitable amount of time for a single malt to develop complexity and a range of flavors.
If you’re looking for a truly high quality single malt, be sure to consider all of these factors.