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A Beginner’s Guide To Understand The Taste Of Whisky

So, you enjoy your occasional glass of whisky but do you ‘understand’ how different whiskies carry different flavours and complexities?

‘Guzzling down whisky is one thing but understanding its taste is like an art.’

Beginning with this perfect surmise, let’s dig a little deeper into it.

Let’s clarify here that one need not be an expert to understand the intricacies of a particular drink, and it is perfectly alright to still enjoy that fine whisky if you so wish. However, if you’re that curious beginner who’d like to delve a little deeper into the glass, here we spring up to bring you the essential key points to help you to appreciate your drink a little better.

Why Does Whisky Taste The Way It Does?

The geography, method of distillation, the size and types of barrels used to age whisky, charring, the duration of ageing, are the key factors which essentially determine how your whisky tastes like.

To understand why does the whisky taste the way it does, you need to open your senses to it and remember the importance of patience and practice.

The Right Glassware

The type of glass used for whisky tasting plays an important role in helping you understand the ‘mystery of whisky’ better.

It is preferable to use the tulip glass or nosing glass or tasting glass which is specially designed to concentrate the aromas of whisky, thus, helping you to get the most of your drink.

Appearance of Whisky
At the risk of sounding shallow let’s announce that appearance matters, in the context of whisky of course!

The appearance and colour of your drink can generally give you a fair idea about how long it was aged.

And when you swirl the glass, you’ll notice the viscosity of whisky legs which is a good indicator of its character & age.

Swirl It Right
So as it turns out, that dramatic swirl is not at all meaningless. When you swirl the glass, it releases the aromas of the whisky which in turn lets your senses register them.

Nosing Your Drink
Did you know that about 80% of the taste is understood by the sense of smell and our nose can pick up hundreds of aromas which are linked to the memory?

Supported by this logic, with nosing whisky tasting actually begins even before we take a sip of the drink.
But how do you nose a drink?

Pour your drink in the glass and swirl it. As the aromas get released you then bring your nose to it, letting your mind register their distinctiveness.

Remember to be cautious though, nose your whisky gently, because, the high ABV content in whisky may end up overwhelming your senses.

Time To Taste It!

Reaching this step is indeed as rewarding and tempting as it sounds!

Once you’ve covered the initial steps, it is time to move onto the next level to gauge the character of the whisky. The point to remember here is to let it linger in the mouth, experiencing the mouthfeel as the flavours are pronounced. Notice if the whisky is creamy, smooth, light or fruity?

Experience The Finish Line
The after-taste of swallowing the whisky is called as ‘finish’, which is the differentiating factor. While swallowing leaves a slight alcoholic burn, it is important to remember that each whisky brand reacts differently to water and ice.

Things to notice here are whether the sensation & the flavour stay for a short or long duration of time, which is called the length of ‘finish’, and reveals the whisky’s character.

Let’s Conclude
It is essential to understand that whisky acquires the flavour and character through time, so there’s no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ when it comes to its taste since ‘taste’ is also a matter of personal choice. However, the familiarize yourself with its basic character, one needs to be analytic let the senses speak.

Lastly, do remember to enjoy your drink as you embark upon this delicious learning experience.

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Revisiting The Local Alcoholic Drinks In The World

Here’s a quick food for thought as you set out to explore the world…

A journey remains incomplete if you haven’t soaked in the vibe of the place, tasted the local delicacies and drank the local alcobev.

As you go out and about globe-trotting, don’t forget to indulge your senses with the local-way.

To give your travel tales that extra punch, with this article we bring you a list of six must-try local alcobevs from around the world. So, fasten your seatbelts because here we go…

Siam Sunray – Thailand

This dreamy-named signature drink was created in 2009 to promote tourism in Thailand. It’s a unique vodka-based cocktail which offers a blast of flavours of coconut liqueur, lemongrass, chilli pepper & kaffir lime.

Don’t forget to sip on this light & refreshing tropical wonder on your next trip to this exotic land.

Konyagi – Tanzania

This local alcobev from Tanzania should be on your list of ‘must-try’. Made from sugarcane/molasses, the versatility of this clear drink delights the taste buds and wins you over with its distinct taste.

Pastis -France

The delightful anise-flavoured apéritif is something you must try while visiting the fascinating French lands.

With 40-45% ABV, it is one of the bold yet one of the favourite drinks in France. It makes the summers even more beautiful with its slightly sweet taste. As you sip on this yellow-coloured drink leaves a sweet taste like a fond memory, like the typically irresistible French charm!

Slivovitz – Serbia, Czech Republic, Poland & Bulgaria

Slivovitz is a heady plum brandy primarily produced in central & eastern Europe. Known for the distinctive bitter taste & the superkick with 50-70% ABV, it has rightly earned a reputation for itself.

Baijiu – China

This funky and complex drink is considered to be the national drink of China and its roots can be traced to the provinces of Sichuan & Guizhou.

Baijiu is white or clear alcobev which is usually distilled from fermented sorghum. However, other grains such as wheat, barley, maize are also commonly used in its production in southern China.

While most Baijiu is about 50% ABV, some are above 60% ABV as well. Since it is high in ABV content, the people who are unaccustomed to its taste, often take time to develop a taste for Baijiu.

There are four varieties of Baijiu which are produced, classified by the aroma –

Strong fragrance;
Light fragrance;

Rice fragrance; and

Sauce fragrance.

Soju – South Korea

The quintessential Korean wonder is one of the most widely consumed drinks around the world by volume. It is popularly believed that an average adult Korean drinks about 90 bottles of Soju a year.

Its alcohol content varies from 16.8% to 53% ABV, and even though it looks like vodka and gin, this distilled, rice-based clear alcobev tastes sweeter. Thanks to its distinctive sharp taste, it is quite easy on the palette, and the subtle flavours it can be consumed with a variety of foods.

Traditionally consumed chilled & neat in a shot glass, Soju is also used as a base spirit in cocktails these days.

Hoping that this list has given you a little encouragement to add a few more stories to your valuable travel adventures, we wish you a bagful of enchanting experiences and glassful of local drinks to take your mind for a spin!

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Difference Between Digestifs & Apéritifs

If sipping on sherry or dry vermouth before a meal, without getting in an inebriated state is your thing, you already are familiar with apéritifs.

‘But is there any difference between digestifs & apéritif, it almost always seems like a confusing puzzle!’

Does this statement sound like you?

We are here to break down this puzzle, so, without further ado let’s get started.

Beginning With The Basics

Both apéritifs and digestifs are typically alcobevs, served before and after a meal.

Apéritif, derived from the Medieval Latin ‘aperire’ which literally means “to open”. This light alcobev is believed to stimulate the appetite.

Since they are served before a meal, they are typically very dry, which indicates they are very low in sugar, because well, you wouldn’t want to be in the inebriated state through the dinner.

Simply put, this well-kept secret of Europe is quickly catching up as a part of day drinking culture too.
Dry champagne, sherry, vermouth, ouzo are commonly consumed types of apéritifs. It is the bitter category which takes the cake by being a popular choice, leaving the taste buds fired up.

Digestifs, on the other hand, as the name suggests are served after a meal to aid in digestion.

They are consumed neat and are generally high on alcohol content as compared to the pre-meal counterpart.

The types of drinks served post-dinner vary according to cultures and countries.

Fortified wines, brandy (Cognac & Armagnac) and liqueurs (both bitter & sweet) qualify in the list of apéritifs. Bitter digestifs contain carminative herbs such as anise, peppermint, fennel, cinnamon etc which aid in digestion.

In European culture both the drinks play a major role to unwind and put the brakes on for an entertaining and wholesome dining experience.

History

Originally apéritifs were used for medicinal purposes early in the 16th century when the liquor based portions were infused with a blend of additives such as herbs, roots and spices. It was introduced in France in 1846 as bitter medicine, however, the ‘preventive bitter medicine’, gradually became a commonly consumed pre-meal drink.

By the 19th century, apéritifs became widely popular in Italy, and by 1900 they were commonly served in America.

Digestifs

Much like their pre-meal counterpart, digestifs too have a history which goes back to centuries. With the carminative herbs to aid in the release of digestive juices, digestifs popularly found a way to the dinner tables during the 18th century.

How Are They Made?

Both apéritifs and digestifs have been commercially made for about two centuries across Europe. There is no fixed general production method or a secret recipe for making these alcobevs, the processes differ according to diverse cultures and countries.

How Do You Drink Them?

Most apéritifs are consumed straight up.

While bitter liqueurs & dry vermouth are served on the rocks, fortified wines are best served chilled. Ouzo & pastis are intensely anise flavoured which makes it best to pair these with water.

While most digestifs are served chilled or at room temperature, cognac & wine are sipped and some like limoncello can also be taken as shots.

Let’s conclude by saying that both alcobevs serve the delicious purpose as pre and post meal drinks, however, it is advised to not beat the purpose by getting carried away, and getting drunk on them!

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