According to a 2014 survey, Singapore had the highest number of Scotch whisky drinkers in the world, contributing to the boost in sales particularly among spirits. Clubs and other similar places reveal the country’s burgeoning cocktail culture. This brings the numbers to an average of 12.76 bottles of whisky per person per year in Singapore.
If you have yet to jump into the fun, one must learn that whisky is not just some drink that you can just chug down. It is an experience, an appreciation of the careful craftsmanship that took years to create. Get to know more about whisky and heighten the “experience” with these tips. And, revel in it more with these insights.
At the beginning
The popularity of whisky boomed in 15th century Scotland, although the history of the distilled drink goes back to thousands of years before that. Distilleries grew by the hundreds in the country, but the harsh taxation and struggles by the English government pushed the manufacturers to produce their whiskies on the down low. In fact these homemade illegal distilleries are the reason behind the “moonshine” whisky, because it had to be made only during the night so officials could not see the smoke from distilleries.
Soon after, the knowledge of whisky production spread like wildfire across the world, particularly in rich grain producing countries. Many had soon developed their own types of whisky, however, expansion came to a halt around the early 20th century due to Prohibition in the United States. At that time, all forms of production and consumption of alcohol were forbidden, except for medicinal whisky and religious red wine. Yes, at one point in history, you needed a doctor’s government issued prescription for booze! They even advised to rub some on a baby’s gums as a home remedy for teething!
Interesting Craft of Whisky-Making
What made whisky so popular is the fact that it can be created with just three basic ingredients. However, the highlight in whisky production is the distillation process.
There are legally five types of Scotch whisky. These include:
- Single Malt Whisky. The term has confused a lot of malt heads. A single malt whisky is not a product of a single barrel or a single batch, but a single distillery. For instance, a single malt Lagavulin may contain whiskies from several barrel produced in their distillery, but for it to be strictly called a single malt whisky, it should only contain whiskies produced at Lagavulin.
- Single Grain Whisky. This type of whisky varies from the others because it only contains barley and one or more cereal grains, either wheat or corn. “Single” here is used to distinguish the fact that the product is made at a single distillery and not one that is made from a single grain. One of the newest production in the market today is Teeling’s Single Malt Irish Whiskey.
Fun fact: Scottish whiskies are distilled twice, while Irish whisky is distilled thrice! This makes the latter smoother with a higher alcohol content, which makes it better for your Irish coffee.
- Blended Grain Whisky. This type of whisky is simply a blend of single grains from two or more distilleries.
- Blended Malt Whisky. This variation was formerly called vatted or pure malts, which is a blend of single malts from two or more distilleries minus the grain element.
- Blended Whisky. This drink is a mix of both grain and malt whiskies that are sourced from different distilleries.
Fun Fact: Back in the day when glass was expensive, one would simply take their empty bottle to the local grocer and have it refilled from a cask for whisky. Often, these would be single casks of single malt, but over time, grocers topped up their cask with whatever whisky they could get resulting in blended malts.
Single Malt vs. Blends
These two variations should not be compared, rather, it ought to be enjoyed separately. Blended malts offer a more affordable entry into the world of Scotch whisky as they are cheaper, but it doesn’t mean that single malts are better. Blended whisky offers drinkers a range of flavours as one would expect by mixing whiskies from different distilleries. Some say, blends are less appetizing, but this actually depends on your preference.
Single malts are more restrictive, giving you an assurance that the drink has been crafted in a single distillery using a certain process.
How to Enjoy Your Whisky
There are several ways to enjoy your whisky as it is one of the most versatile and diverse drinks on the planet. Therefore, enjoying whisky is not just pouring it down the hatch, rather it involves understanding the nuances that come with it.
Nice and Neat
If you really want to taste the original flavours, it would be best to skip the ice. Yes, a good amount of whiskies might be enhanced by ice, but you are missing out on experiencing the meticulous craftsmanship if you don’t, at least, drink it neat.
In doing so, you get to experience how the aromas hit your nose and how the flavours caress your palate. Since whiskies usually run 40% to 43% ABV (alcohol by volume), which is actually pretty high, having it neat might be too overpowering for newbies, which is why some people add a few drops of water in it.
A Sprinkle of Water
How is it possible that a single drop of water can make a world of difference? The idea might seem preposterous but this rather simple chemistry creates astounding results. It’s just like adding oxygen to wine, and it opens the gates to distinct new flavours and aromas. This allows you to fully take in and appreciate the layers of character that whisky has to offer.
You can use a glass of water and a straw. Simply add a drop and give it a swirl before taking a sip. Repeat the process until you arrive at the kind of flavour that you find most pleasing to your palate. Experts advise against adding too much water too soon. Take it a step at a time, and gradually by going through the motions, a transformations is revealed.
On the Rocks
The most popular way that whisky is prepared is “on the rocks”. It sounds suave or cool, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s how you should take your whisky. Remember to always go with whatever floats your boat, and not necessarily what’s popular.
Ice will certainly unveil something different to the drink. It can mute some flavour compounds and enhance others. The size of the ice cube plays a significant factor as small cubes or crushed ice melt faster as opposed to larger pieces. If you want to maintain the chill without diluting the drink right away, whisky stones is an excellent option.
If neat and iced are not your type, an interesting way to enjoy the flavours is to have your whisky in a cocktail. This drink covers a range of mixes such as Manhattan, Old Fashioned, Sazerac or the Lynchburg Lemonade.
Fun fact: Whiskies are not only limited to popular sippers as it can also be used in baking! Some confectionary masters add whisky to their cakes, chocolate mousses, and even bread!
Whiskey or Whisky?
As old as aging oak barrels stands the question of whether it should be spelled with an “e” or without it.
The general rule is that Irish and American whiskey is spelled with an “e”, while the Scottish, Canadian, and Japanese refer to it as whisky.
How To Choose the Right Whisky for You?
If you have made it this far in this piece, then you are well on your way to finding a good buy. It is always best to have a good idea with what you want and what to look for before cashing out. The best way would be to approach the person who works at the store. These sellers are knowledgeable of the different variations and characters that each brand boasts of. Furthermore, they understand what you need, and pair you with the suitable whisky based on your palette.
For first timers, Irish and Scotch whisky that hail from the Lowlands and Speyside regions tend to give a lighter and more delicate flavour. This would be gentler on the palate, instead of overwhelming you on your first try.
If you are still undecided and apprehensive on shelling some cash on a whole bottle, whisky tasting events are excellent occasions where you can try out new flavours. The Standish constantly hosts such events, so keep tabs on current announcements and updates. We have a wide selection of whiskies with something for every palate – from beginners to experienced drinkers. Take this knowledge with you on your next shopping trip. Or, come to our store and we’ll help you find a bottle most suited to your taste.
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