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A Beginner's Guide To Drinking Whisky

Just in time for World Whisky Day.

20/05/2016 3:07 PM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:52 PM AEST
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According to Hamish Fyfe, business manager of glass spirits at Dan Murphy's, there is such a thing as the 'Mad Men' effect and it's taking place in Australia right now.

"A lot of it is driven by the amount of whisky bars popping up, and the fact general consumer consumption is moving away from volume to premium beverages," Fyfe told The Huffington Post Australia.

"It's what we call the 'Mad Men' effect. We're seeing cocktail culture and club culture creep back into society a little bit, and the proliferation of whisky bars and cocktail bars end up driving retail trends over time.

"People are also drinking less but they are drinking better. Alcohol consumption in Australia, if you just look at alcohol per unit, is dropping."

Whiskey Me Up
Wonder what Don Draper has to say about this?

For those who are new to the whisky-drinking game, there are a couple of things you need to know.

To 'e' or not to 'e'

Whisky can be spelled either 'whisky' or 'whiskey', depending on where it's from.

"Generally, the rule is that Irish whiskey and American whiskey is spelled with an 'e'," Fyfe said.

"Scottish, Australian, Canadian and Japanese whisky is all without."

How to purchase

A good bottle of whisky can be expensive, so if you're in the market to buy one, it's probably best to have some idea of what you're talking about before you whip out your wallet.

"The first thing you should do is ask the person that works in the store. They will be able to understand what the customers needs or find out what their palette is like and then match a product to suit that," Fyfe said.

"There are also a couple of general things you can run by. Irish whiskey or Scotch whisky from the Lowlands and Speyside regions tend to be lighter and more delicate in flavour and therefore a good place for beginners to start with.

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"We are also seeing a huge interest in American whiskey (courtesy of the 'Mad Men' effect), the most commonly found of which is Bourbon Whiskey," Fyfe continued.

"To be called Bourbon the whiskey must meet particular criteria including: that the whiskey is made from at least 51 per cent corn, is made exclusively in the U.S.A. and is aged in charred new oak barrels.

"Bourbon can can be made anywhere in the United States but 95 percent of it is made in Kentucky. A good example of a quality Bourbon is 'Buffalo Trace Bourbon 700ml', which won double gold at the San Francisco Spirits competition in April."

How to serve

"Adding water is a really good way," Fyfe said. "It takes away that initial burn you might get if you put a whole heap of scotch into your mouth and swig it down quickly.

"Putting it with ice also helps.

"A lot of people will take a big mouthful [of whisky straight] and say 'oh gee, that was hot and that burned,' which is why the water and the ice are popular.

"We tend to say drink it as you like it, but once customers get into single malts, they generally aren't mixing it."

Blended whiskey vs. single malt

There are two main types of scotch whisky -- blended and single malt.


Blended Whisky

"A blended whisky is made by combining single malt whiskies and grain whiskies. Most blended Scotch whiskies contain around 60 percent single malt and 40 percent grain whisky," Fyfe said.

"Dewars is an example of a terrific blended scotch whisky. The 'Dewars 12 year old blended scotch whisky 700ml' last month won the award for 'Best Blended Scotch Whisky 12 years and under' at the World Whiskies Awards."

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Thanks to 'Mad Men', it's American whiskey's time to shine.


Single Malt Whisky

"A single malt whisky is made at one distillery with malted barley (as opposed to grain whisky)," Fyfe said.

"Single malts can be seen as a true representation of a distillery's style, whereas blends can be manufactured via the blending of individual batches used to create many different styles. Single malts are a bit like a single vineyard wine.

"A good example of a quality single malt is Glengoyne (Highlands region). Glengoyne uses predominately sherry barrels to mature their whiskies which are more expensive and rarer nowadays and offers a distinctive finish to the whisky.

"The 'Glengoyne 15 year old single malt scotch whisky 700ml' won a Gold medal last month at the San Francisco Spirits competition."

World Whisky Day

If you want an excuse to cross over to the dark (spirit) side, World Whisky Day is surely it.

Held on 21 May, 2016, WWD is "a day of global whisky celebration" inviting everyone to "to try a dram and celebrate the water of life."

Find a local event here or if you want to try your hand at making a whisky cocktail, you can try out Hamish's favourite below.

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Perfect for a winter's night in.

THE MANHATTAN

INGREDIENTS

  • 50ml American Rye whiskey
  • 20ml Sweet vermouth
  • 1 dash bitters
  • GARNISH: Cherry
  • GLASS: Martini

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Combine ingredients.
  2. Stir over ice.
  3. Strain into Martini glass.
  4. Serve with garnish.

And, voila!

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