8:25pm, 3rd October, 2016
We were taken to a room with a horse-shoe shaped wooden table in front of a screen. Each of us sat in front of whisky glasses that were spaciously layed out on the table. This was to be the whisky tasting session after the magical ride through the whisky making experience that we had had a couple of minutes ago. Along with the glasses was a very simple looking card with four colours on it. It had a name to each colour – Lowland (Green), Highland (Yellow), Islay (Red), Speyside (Blue). By now I could identify that these refer to regions of Scotland which meant that the Scotch whisky in that name would be made in that region.
The session began with a video that told us how the single malt is made in each of these regions of Scotland . What were the peculiarities of the ingredients, casks, soils, water and nature in these regions that would reflect in the taste and smell of the barley/grain/water that is used to make the whisky and hence eventually in the scotch made in that region. Just as I was about to believe that this part does not involve any magical wizard-like experience they asked us to rub every section of the card in front of us to smell that particular whisky.
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So I rubbed the ‘Lowlands’ first. It had a flowery sweet smell to it. Probably a characteristic of the Lowland areas of Scotland where aromatic flowers must be a common sight in nature.
The ‘Highland’ smelled like a mixture of flora and fauna. Some peculiarities of the Highlands being the sheep, the pure natural water, the fish of the fresh water lakes and the green pastures and mountains that remain green all year round due to ample rain that they get in this region.
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‘Speyside’ had a strong smell of dry fruits to it along with other milder smells that were blended with it. Dry fruits are abunndant in this region and are used to give a different flavour to the Whisky.
Finally ‘Islay’, hold your breath ladies and gentlemen because this is supposed to the most reverred and popular type of single malt whisky that they make and also one of the strongest one. It is said that very few can actually consume Islay single malt. Islay has a strong smoky smell that of burnt coal.
So they asked us which one we liked and would like to taste for the tasting experience. I chose the ‘Highland’ and I saw my dad choose the ‘Islay’ and I told him secretly ‘I am going to taste some from yours as well!’.
We followed the lady in faint dizziness of the smell of whisky that we were carrying in our respective glasses now. We went to a room whose walls were not visible. All you could see from the ceiling to the floor were stacks and stacks of scotch whisky bottles. There were chessboards whose pawns were actually whisky bottles! Imagine playing a game of chess where everytime you lose a pawn you have to open it and drink up the whisky in it. What fun!
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Just then I heard the lady invite us to a circular table where she would tell us how to taste your whisky.
Her instructions went on like this…
Hold the glass in your hand and swirl the whisky in the glass. See how quickly the whisky returns to its level and what is the viscosity of the liquid. This tells you how strong the Whisky is in terms of the alcohol percentage
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Hold the glass up against the light. See the colour of the whisky. Is it deep dark or light golden? This can tell you the age of the Whisky or the material of the cask that it was matured in.
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Bring the glass to your nose but don’t insert your nose into it. It should be just in front of your nose. Now take a long breath and let the smell of the whisky reach you slowly. Try and identify the different flavours in the smell.
‘Slange Va!’, she said as she raised her glass to us in a toasting gesture. That’s how you toast in Scotland. ‘Slange Va’ we echoed!
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Now take a sip and let the whisky roll around your tongue for some time. See how the different flavours that you just smelled unveil inside your mouth. Note how the flavour changes slowly and then swallow it.
Notice what after taste it leaves in your mouth. Is it smooth or very dry? Is it a short after taste or a long one?
The Highland scotch that my glass contained smelled very mild but the actual taste hit very hard on my tongue. It had a mild flavour but perhaps the alcohol content and strength of the alcohol was high. My Dad’s Islay was just as expected, very smoky and it would run down your oesophagus giving you a burning sensation all through. It was starting to get hotter inside the room or was it just me and my Whisky? I don’t know. This was the first time when I felt like escaping outside to the cold weather of Scotland! I left ‘The Scotch Whisky Experience’ with a dizzy head, a burning throat and a whole lot of experience to bring back!
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