Whisky, not just for old men anymore

I recently attended a Glenfiddich Taste and Talk event. Richard Poplak, author of The Sheik's Batmobile - In pursuit of America's Pop Culture in the Muslim World, shared some anecdotes with us while we sipped on Whisky sours.

Following his readings, we were lead through a single malt whisky tasting by kilt-wearing Glenfiddich global brand ambassador, Ian Millar, who has worked for more than 30 years in Scotch Whisky, including bottling, mashing, distilling and warehousing. I vigorously took notes on his recommendations to share with you:

A whisky tumbler is usually thought of as the traditional whisky conduit, but should be reserved for mixing whisky into a long drink or with a lot of ice.

Whiskies have bouquets that are both complex and yet sutble. To best direct the aromas towards the nose, a fluted or tulip-shaped glass is best. These nosing glasses are important because half of the experience of tasting whisky is in the aroma, much like wine.

You want to warm the whisky up at least room temperature. The easiest way to do this is to warm it up in your hand, swirling it about. I particularly enjoyed watching it coat the side of the glass as I did this. Warming takes some of the bite off the whisky.

Next, experiment with adding water to the whisky. Add one or two drops. (You can't take it out once it's in.) Taste. Continue until it tastes more palatable to you. This is entirely based on preference, like how you take your coffee. This socially acceptable whisky ritual makes it more accessible and enjoyable to experience.

When tasting whisky, you analyze its flavour based on its
  • Nose
  • Taste
  • Depth
  • Complexity
  • Finish

We tried Glenfiddich's 12 year, 15 year, 18 year and then 21 year in sequence:
12 Year - Fresh and fruity with pear. Balanced. Sweet butterscotch with a mellow, long and smooth finish.

15 Year - Complex aroma with honey and vanilla. Smooth taste reveals sherry oak, marzipan, cinnamon and ginger. Rich finish with lingering sweetness.

18 Year - Aroma of ripe orchard fruit, spiced apple and robust oak. Taste reveals dates, dried fruit and candy peel with oak. Warming finish.

21 Year - Intense and sweet aroma with floral hints of banana, figs and toffee. Initially tastes soft then vibrant, peppery, smokey with vanilla, ginger, lime, spices and new leather. The finish is long, warming and spicy.

This variety is finished in barrels that previously contained carribean rum which infuses the whisky with spicy sweetness.
Although we did not try these varieties, Glenfiddich also offers:

30 Year - Aroma contains oak and sherry. Complex and woody taste with fig, florals and dark chocolate. Long, honeyed and warm finish.

40 Year - Floral with rose and herbaceous borders. Fragrant and honeyed. Then beeswax. Polished oak and leather armchairs. After mocha coffee and pain au chocolat, boxes of dates. Chocolate truffles in crème Anglaise. Raspberries and redcurrants with a malt-doused vanilla ice cream. Balanced by fruitiness and acidity. Finish of bitter chocolate pralines with root ginger, burnt-tasting caramels in front of a smoky, aromatic log fire.


  1. That's wicked that you got to go to a whisky tasting.
    I love drinking the stuff, but definitely don't know that much about it. I might use this as a guide for next time.

  2. Thanks Parker. This was the second one of the 'Taste and Talk' series. I think they're going to keep having them every few months. I'll let you know about the next one and you can come with me!

  3. I also love love a nice scotch - something about the nice warm buzz it delivers that is unparalleled in any other drink. So perfect for the incoming winter weather. A couple other brands that are good are Lagavulin and Talisker - we threw a Glen (scotch) Party a couple years back - good times!

  4. Thanks for the brand suggestions, Heather. I would love to see how other varieties differ from Glenfiddich. A Glen party is an awesome idea!

    We should grab some scotch some time :)