When taking on a new chellenge it is best to be methodical and set about the task with a plan.
Earlier we disucussed the basic strategy behind whisky tasting and offered some advice that we would give to any guest sitting at our Libarary Bar faced with the array of bottles and not knowing where to start or more possibly how to start. Over the course of time we hope to guide visitors round the shelves and allow them to sample - virtually- the water of life. Then possibly you will be tempted across the threshold of your local bar or shop or even maybe across our bridge and then into our very own library bar!
So as in all things it's best to start at the beginning
- but when you are not sure where that is then we would always suggest that the closer to home the better so for us where better to start than Oban. Oban is the frontier between the West Highlands and the Islands; the meeting place between land and sea. A perfect, sheltered harbour makes it the principal seaport for the Isles and the capital of the West Highlands.
It has a mild, temperate climate, warmed by the Gulf Stream and washed (too often, some might say) by the soft rain that often falls hereabouts. This misty, maritime character, with a background of heather and peat, is perfectly echoed in the malt whisky produced at Oban.
At the heart of Oban for over 200 years has been the distillery and despite all the changes and developments over the years it remains key to the town.
Oban distillery is now owned by the grand international company- diageo- and if truth be told it is the support, help and most importantly investment from the powers above that have kept it alive and indeed thriving as it is today.
Oban is made using only the finest barley, malted to the distillery's own particular specification. The tiny lantern-shaped copper pot stills are among the smallest in Scotland; their rich, fruity malt is then slowly condensed in wooden worm tubs that sit outside among the rooftops, before being aged in oak casks for at least 14 years.
Rich sweetness and fruits - oranges, lemons and pears, with sea-salt and peaty smokiness.
Mouth-filling late autumn fruits - dried figs and honey-sweet spices; followed by a smoky malty dryness.
Long, smooth-sweet finish with oak-wood, dryness and a grain of salt.
A combination of light smoke, medium richness and appetising spice
No visit ot Scotland is quite complete without a wee dram just to keep us all in touch with the "Spirit of Scotland" - in more ways than one!
Anyway we have a huge range of guests who stay with us at Eriska and their knowledge and experiences with Malt Whisky always varies but whether they be afficiandos or simply beginners- crossing the threshold of our Library Bar for the first time- it is certainly a topic which causes great discussion - always raises the passions and never curbs the enthusiasm.
Malt whisky at Eriska is an intricate part of our life
and whether guests are simply looking for a favourite or wanting to try a wee dram for the first time we try to help them understand a bit about this essential part of Scottish life and allow them the opportunity to immerse themselves in the history and culture if they so wish. This ranges from allowing them to sit quietly and enjoy the dram by the fire or pontificate at the bar and compare notes with others but in the middle of the range is the vast majority who simply are intrigued by the history, enjoy the product and use their experiences to enhance their stays in this wonderful part of the world.
Many simply enjoy what they consume and, as they are not regular malt masters, are looking for ways to compare and contrast their experiences. So we always believe the best starting point is to try and form a base line so all malts get a "fair" chance to show! Therefore we thought it might be helpful to put down some simple guidelines as to how we recommend guests taste whisky in order to get the most out of the experiecne and enjoy the "water of life" to its best.
How to taste whisky
- Start with a tulip shaded glass (never a whisky tumble- unless that is all you have access to). This will concentrate the aroma of the spirit.
- Serve the the sample at room temperature, as this will allow the liquor to expend the maximum aroma and flavor.
- Observe the colour by holding the glass up to the light and note the hue of the liquid inside. It varies from a pale straw color to a deep mahogany all the way to a heavy treacle in older whiskeys.Nose the whisky two to three times- ie pass it in front of you nose iniatally and
- Swirl the glass in order to release some of the aroma. Not only will this prepare the whisky for your nose, but it will also provide much insight about the sample. The Legs on the glass are indicative of the potency of the whisky.
- Take a nose into the glass but do not be tempted to inhale too deeply, or you may risk becoming temporarily “odor blind.”
- Take a small sip and let the whisky coat your mouth and note what flavors you pick up
- Add water to the spirit to open it up and to release the oils in the dram (I add just a splash)
- Take a big sip and note the overall body of the spirit
- Move the whisky around in your mouth to pick up additional flavors
- Swallow and note how long the finish is
- Take your time and try only a few at a time and drink plenty of water between sips.
- Discussion time!!
In addition to these simple steps we also have a tasting sheet and this allows guests who are intersted over their stay to sample a few malts and keep a record in order to allow them to compare and contrast over a few hours, days or even weeks. By structuring the tasting each time it helps formulate the reasons behind malt choices