Havin a chat aboot my favourite drink …

Half dozing off at the King James (Christies pub in Perth) these points came up when doing my best to get some whisky virgins to commence their long career with the water of life. When you drink whisky, why do you only fill up a little bit in a glass? Why not fill it up?  Whisky is strong, some will burn your mouth and throat, this can ruin the experience and wreck and numb your taste buds to the point you don’t want any more whisky, ever. Grand whiskies, aged drams and expensive drams maybe best enjoyed by pouring 1 or 2 drops of water  to “open it up” – to cut the alcohol enough to let the drinker appreciate the excellence of the craft that is whisky making. Not distilling you hear, but making! Distilling is just one small step in the craft art of delivering a whisky. Like art, a whisky in a glass is in the eye (and mooth) of the beholder. Let the whole whisky experience blend, experiment what works for you. A cheap blended whisky might be great for adding ice and making cocktails but an expensive dram doesn’t deserve to be treated like any old cocktail mixer. Give it respect. If you want to just get drunk, then donder down to the pub and have a few shots of crap liquid enjoyed by the mass of younger people every Friday and Saturday night.

Is the Glencairn glass the best way to enjoy a whisky? How often have you heard “it must be in the right glass”? Personally, that is rubbish, I am happy extracting a dram from any container, a Glencairn or a mug for tea. By adding a few drops of water you can open up different flavours that you previously had not found. Specially true when enjoying cask strength that have higher alcohol levels (can be over 60% ABV although illegal in Norway). With cask strength whisky the alcohol and burning in your mouth can overpower even the flavours. By adding water, this dilutes the alcohol and reduces its effect, giving the flavours a chance to come oot. Ice is slightly different. Rather than bringing out flavours, the ice makes the temperature drop rapidly. The aromas and taste will only start to open up and reveal their characteristics once the whisky starts to warm up to room temperature. Do you have all night?

On a bottle of whisky and the label says “non-chill filtered.” What does that mean?  it means your whisky may turn cloudy  if served on ‘the’ rocks. Chill filtering is a step most distillers take to remove chemical compounds such as esters, proteins and acids produced during fermentation and maturation. Whisky bottled at a typical alcohol content of less than 46 per cent will become cloudy if subsequently chilled, either during transport or in the presence of ice. In chill filtering, whisky is cooled to between -10° and 4° Celsius and passed through a fine adsorption filter. This is done mostly for cosmetic reasons – to remove cloudiness – rather than to improve taste or consistency, and tell me if I am wrong here, mostly this affects to USA market and drinkers. Hey guys, there is nothing wrong with a cloudy whisky. Get over it, try a stone in the dram maybe, or just learn the art of dramming like in Scotland.

Breaking a cork –  you pull out the cap of a whisky to find a handful of wood or plastic topper, whilst the cork remains wedged in the neck of the bottle?  What do I do?  carefully use a corkscrew to remove the cork, just like with a bottle of wine, if the cork falls into the bottle get another empty bottle or jug, with a sieve pour the whisky out into the empty vessel, then clean your original container and pour the liquid back into the original bottle. One wee tip from myself; when you finish a bottle of whisky that has had a cork, keep the cork top just in case!

DRINKING WHISKY is a pleasure not to be missed. But – so often fold have said to me “it burned my mouth, it tasted horrible”, well, all I can say is, either you are not drinking it correctly, or – you havnee found the right whisky for you yet. There are so many whisky snobs out there, my advice, take your time, sample as many as you can – not all on the same day – find the one that suits your taste. Me? To all my Scottish friends and contacts in the whisky industry, I am NOT sorry, my drink of choice at the bar is Bushmills Black Bush, easy to drink, doesnee burn and is light, no peat. Aye but that doesnee mean I don’t drink other drams by the way. I do tend to stay away from cheap blended rubbish, that’s only good for cocktails, mixing with coke and for Campbells!

A personal blether from Paul McLean.


black bush irish whisky with a problem cork