Bottoms Up > Spell it whisky or whiskey, but sniff, sip and savor it

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Whisky is best tasted neat in a tulip-shaped glass, according to David Blackmore of the Glenmorangie distillery. Whisky is best tasted neat in a tulip-shaped glass, according to David Blackmore of the Glenmorangie distillery.

Most people think the spelling is the least important thing about drinking whisky. After all, one need not pass a spelling test before being permitted to buy a wee dram at the pub.

But the addition, or omission, of that “E” has caused some controversy, according to David Blackmore, a master brand ambassador for the Glenmorangie distillery in Tain, Scotland, and the head of its educational program.

Blackmore said the rule depends on where in the world the spirits are bought.

“All scotch is whisky. But not all whisky or whiskey is scotch,” he said.

The spelling of whisky – or whiskey – differs geographically. As a rule, Americans and the Irish prefer whiskey. Scots, Canadians and the rest of the world’s single-malt makers prefer whisky, he said.

Blackmore, who is from Scotland and a professional whisky tutor with a background at the Scotch Malt Whisky Society in Scotland and London, will be at the Inn of Cape May Saturday, Sept. 24 for a Scotch tasting and dinner to teach whisky connoisseurs and newbies the nuisances of the spirit.

But if you want to prepare beforehand, or maybe just impress the expert, here are a few things that might be good to know.

Blackmore said that during the 19th century, Scotch whisky was generally viewed as being low quality. For exportation to America, Irish distillers wanted to differentiate their product from the poorer Scotch whisky, so they added the “E” to the name in an effort to create a distinction.

Even today, with Scotch whisky becoming perhaps one of the world’s greatest spirits, the spelling still differs. Americans still spell their spirit with an “E,” though the legal spelling is whisky. A few distillers, Maker’s Mark and George Dickel, for example, prefer the Scottish spelling.

Scotch on the rocks is a classic drink. But what whisky counts as Scotch?

Well, no surprise there: to be classified as Scotch, a whisky must be made in Scotland.

According to Blackmore, to legally be called a single malt Scotch, the whisky must be distilled at a single distillery in Scotland, in a copper pot still from nothing other than malted barley, yeast and water. It must then be aged in an oak cask for at least three years and a day, and it has to have an alcohol content of at least 40 percent.

Any whisky with the word “single” on its label has been made in one distillery only. A blend is a mixture of whiskies from different distilleries. Whiskies from a single source are sold under the name of the distillery that produced them, and blended whiskies are sold under brand names, such as Chivas Regal, Dewar’s or The Famous Grouse.

Malt whisky is made from malted barley only, whereas grain whisky is made from other cereals, such as wheat or maize. Most grain whiskies are used in blends.

When it comes to drinking, purists may scream silently when they see someone adding water to their whisky, Blackmore said – and some may even scream out loud, he joked.

However, there is a reason some whisky drinkers prefer a splash of water instead of having their drink “neat,” or straight, he said.

The water fulfils two functions: It can make the whisky easier to drink, and it may open up the whisky and release a great deal more flavor and aroma. Adding ice is said to freeze the taste and aroma of the liquor and dull the experience of drinking it, he said.

“In Scotland, you won’t find people putting ice in their single malt very often. It’s just not something that has been traditionally acceptable. I don’t think that means that drinking your single malt on the rocks is wrong. It’s simply a response to the climate you live in,” he said.

When it comes to tasting, Blackmore said he keeps it simple.

“A good tulip-shaped nosing glass is essential to get the most aromas and flavors out of your single malt,” he said.

Blackmore said he always samples whisky neat, nosing and tasting it and noting the various flavors and aromas.

“I will then add a drop of room temperature bottled water and repeat the process of nosing and tasting. Water acts on the whisky to open up the range of aromas and flavors, and amplify the floral perfumed notes in particular,” he said.

Regardless of how one enjoys his or her whisky, Blackmore said three steps should be followed:

First, smell the whisky before drinking it. Taste and smell are closely related senses, and smell is essential to the enjoyment of good food and drink.

Next, sip the whisky. Don’t gulp. Swirl each mouthful around the palate to appreciate all the subtleties of flavor.

Finally, savor the whisky. Whisky is best enjoyed with time between each sip to appreciate its finish.

Blackmore will lead a tasting of Glenmorangie Single Malt Scotch Whisky accompanied by a four-course meal 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 24 at the Inn of Cape May, 7 Ocean Street, Cape May.

Admission for the tasting and dinner, sponsored by the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts and Humanities, is $75 per person.

For information or to make reservations call (609) 884-5404 or see www.capemaymac.org.

 

This county loves to have a good time, especially when fancy microbrews, dirty martinis or a shot of Jack are involved. Follow Freetime reporter Lauren Suit each week as she hops the local bars to drink in Cape May County’s social scene and connect with the people who shake it and serve it.

:  Glenmorangie whisky is aged 10 years in the distillery in Tain, Scotland, founded in 1843. : Glenmorangie whisky is aged 10 years in the distillery in Tain, Scotland, founded in 1843.

David Blackmore, a professional whisky tutor, will lead a whisky tasting and dinner 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 24 at the Inn of Cape May. David Blackmore, a professional whisky tutor, will lead a whisky tasting and dinner 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 24 at the Inn of Cape May.

 


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