Friday, 12 August 2011

The Whisky Tasting Series - Part 1

A whisk(e)y tasting is a very solemn ritual of discovery beyond savouring smells & tastes. It's between you and the whisk(e)y. It's honest & real.

This series is designed to make you an expert. When we are finished you will simply lift a glass of whisky and by just looking at the colour and sniffing the whisky in the glass - you will identify if it is as a Bourbon, Scotch or Irish - or not! You will know the cask it was aged in. You will tell whether it is a Single Malt, a blended Whisky or even a Bourbon. Here's to you becoming your own whisky master.

Some tricks that will help you along the way are:

The colour of the whisky when held up to the light. Any whisky man leading the whisky tasting and even half okay will tell you that whisky is matured in Oak casks. It is always Oak casks as Oak has the perfect porosity and level as tannins and lignans we need.

So if it is a ex-Bourbon Casks what then?
Some whiskies are entirely aged in ex Bourbon Cask, meaning that they have previously been used to age Bourbon for the minimum required period for Bourbon, which by law is 2 years. So Bourbon goes into the new wood and soften the wood impact for other whiskies and contributes one major flavours to other whiskies, namely Vanilla. You sometime find hints of banana and dustiness. Bourbon cask aged whiskies are a dryer compared to sherry cask aged whiskies. Bourbon Cask whiskies will be a light yellow colour.

If it is ex-Sherry casks what will this do for the whisky?
Some whiskies are also entirely aged in ex-Sherry casks. These casks have previously held sherry for varying periods of time. Not often years but months. Again this previous occupant has lessened the harsher wood impact and contributes to the flavour of the whisky. The two most notable flavours are toffee and caramel . There will also be some hint of the sherry and toasted notes often confused as some nut or other. Sherry cask aged whiskies are sweeter than Bourbon cask aged whiskies. Sherry cask whiskies are very dark plum in colour.

Whisky measure zero on the glucose table:
Although we refer to whiskies as sweet sometime, there is no sugar in whisky. Whisky measure zero on the glucose table and is the reason why doctors suggest that whisky is the only drink a diabetic can drink.

Lets recap Part 1.
If you lift your glass to the light and the colour is light yellow it is aged in ex-Bourbon casks and the whisky will be dryer & you know the main flavour on the nose will be vanilla.  If I told you to lift the ex-Sherry aged whisky to the light you will say from the dark plum colour that the whisky was aged in Sherry cask and without smelling will say that it is sweet with notes of toffee and caramel. Impress your guests Part 1.

See you soon

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Memories Of A Great Gathering In West Africa

We recently held a conference in Libreville, Gabon with major added benefits.  We hosted several whisky tastings and a whisky dinner. We conducted hours of staff training. All tastings and dinners were well attended and often overcrowded. In our free time we flew, by helicopter, to the equator and took pictures to prove it. I have the picture of our group standing next to the lone red concrete column that marks the exact spot between the two hemispheres. We jumped from the Northern hemisphere to the Southern hemisphere many times. This raised several shallow remarks and some crude chuckles. We flew to a deserted stretch of land and walked along the beach to spend the rest of the day on a private beach where we conducted whisky tastings and training with staff from the various West African countries. What a setting!

Our lunch was fresh seafood, followed by lazing in the sun on stretch beds and later, some people choose to cool down in the sea. I suppose they were refreshing. The 'now very much more knowledgable' staff conducted tastings back to our group. Some were great, others simply brilliant with an obvious flair for public speaking. We were happy in the knowledge that all participants had learnt everything they needed to conduct tastings in their markets. We had an awesome time together and I will always have great memories of this trip because of the warmth of the people.

We will see results from people who live passionately and love what they do. We wish each and every one of you, our colleagues in West Africa the very best and that this time together will return rewards in your future. It was WOW! Thanks to Jean-Do and Joel for arranging the gathering.