This article will serve as an example of how to utilise the Rational Spirits Note shared just recently.
No, your eyes are not deceiving you – that is in fact a tiny bottle of Scotch whisky standing beside a double-walled glass containing a large and perfectly transparent block of ice.
The tiny bottle was part of a marketing promotion at my local liquor store, providing a small sample of this relatively rare (and expensive) offering with every purchase of their more accessible product, The Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve.
The double-walled glass I bought because I thought it looked cool and has proved functional for hot and cold beverages. I learned to make clear ice from the following youtube video:
In another life, before wine, I was very much interested in spirits and mixed drinks. It’s a passion that follows me to this day, but before I seriously studied the subject I had no idea how much knowledge I was lacking.
I’ve come a long way since then, and there’s enough new information for a whole new series of articles. For now, let’s have a look at this particular sample.
- Clarity: Clear
- Intensity: Medium
- Colour: Gold
- Condition: Clean
- Intensity: Medium
- Maturation: Matured
- Sweetness: Dry
- Alcohol: Warming
- Body: Full
- Flavor Intensity: Pronounced
- Finish Length: Long
- Finish Nature: Very Complex
- Quality: Outstanding
- Origin: Speyside, Scotland
- Raw Material: Barley
- Style within the category: Aged scotch whisky
- Method of production: Pot still distillation
- Aromas of honey, malt, fig, orange blossom, chocolate and nectarine
- Flavours of honey, liquorice, cinnamon, anise, chocolate, malt
- Addition of water seems to accentuate spice on palate, brings out more stonefruit (peach, apricot) on nose.
- Well balanced, great length, good intensity and overwhelming complexity, “outstanding” is the only quality rating this sample deserves.
Spirits will have a much higher alcohol level than wine (>40% vs 10-15%), so it’s essential to have some water on hand, preferably distilled. In addition to cleansing your palate between tastings, adding a few drops to a spirit will release more volatile aromatic compounds that would otherwise remain undetected.
To be clear, adding water in this context is used to reveal character, not to directly impact on the quality of the beverage. Whisky is a good example – some will reveal their complexity, while lesser examples will merely become diminished.
Outside of a serious setting, how you want to enjoy your spirit is up to personal preference. There are certainly valid arguments for and against adding water/ice. Quality whisky can spend more than a decade ageing in barrels, slowly building up complexity, before ending up in the glass before you. Some would consider the act of adding water or ice a sort of insult, destroying a delicate balance build over years with a thoughtless act.
Which is why I like to gradually work my way through a dram in all dimensions: neat, add a few drops of water before, if I felt inclined, adding a fresh block of ice.
I may or may not review spirits again in the future, so I encourage you to try this approach with all spirits – gin, vodka, tequila, brandy, etc… They are much more than possible ingredients in some mixologist’s recipe book. Each will have their own unique character and flavour, and they will be revealed to you if only you pay attention.
Read more: Take A Leap Of Faith