Whisky Tasting: Heady Flavours Put Whisky on the Map

Never one to rush things, I came late to the charms of uisge beatha. Indeed, it took several decades for me to develop any sort of taste for whisky (or even whiskey). Single malts are still hit-and-miss and just when I think I’ve cracked it, managing to identify my all-time favourite, I get stopped in my tracks by some overly medicinal, iodine-laden, tonsil-tormentor.

“Don’t panic and don’t give up,” says Dave Broom, editor of The Scotch Whisky Review and author of the Handbook of Whisky. “There’s a single malt for everyone.”

I challenge Broom to convince me. Not only that, I challenge Broom to convince my wife, Marina, who professes to loathe the stuff. “Every bar worth its salt has a fine range of malts these days,” says Broom when we meet in his local, the Ginger Pig in Hove. “But since there are currently 92 working distilleries in Scotland with around 2,000 different malts between them, it can be deeply confusing finding a substitute if your favourite isn’t there.”

To help the whiskily-challenged, Broom, in association with multi-distillery-owning drinks giant, Diageo, has devised a Single Malt Whisky Flavour Map. This grid is dotted with scores of whiskies, their coordinates determined by how light, smoky, rich and delicate they are.

Glenlivet 15 Year Old, for example, in the bottom right-hand corner, is judged to be delicate and rich. Ardbeg 10, in the top left, is light and smoky. Mannochmore 12, slap in the middle, is a balance of all four.

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March 7, 2009