The Good Life

A perfect peg

Whyte & Mackay master blender Richard Paterson guides you on the right way to enjoy whisky

While enjoying a whisky peg, one rarely goes into details about its blender or producer and the process that it has gone through before finally being poured into your glass. One can only make out the difference if the whisky is not perfectly blended, and for this very reason, Master Blenders are as important as the whisky. A blend could comprise as many as 25 to 30 different whiskies mixed together to give you your perfect whisky peg. 

Whisky traces its origin back to the 15th century, when it was first distilled in Scotland. The basic types of Scotch are malt and grain, which are combined to create blends. Most Scotch whisky makers use peat smoke to treat their malt, giving Scotch its distinctive smoky flavour. When discovered, whisky was very brut, and was often considered as a macho man’s drink. Whiskies have now come of age and anyone can enjoy them, as blending has made them the choice of every palate. They can be distinguished as Lowlands, Highlands, Speyside, Campbeltown and Islay, as these regions produce distinctive whiskies.

A whisky cannot be officially called ‘Scotch’ unless it has been matured in Scotland in oak casks for a minimum of three years. Today, Scotch is probably one of the most popular alcoholic beverages made by distilling fermented grain, a fundamental part of Scottish history and culture that has infused itself into the culture of many nations around the world. 

One of the best ways to relax and unwind is to sit back and take in one of the many premium quality blends and single malts available in the market. They are distilled in oak casks and Oloroso sherry butts and have been matured to perfection in time-honoured tradition. Though most of us have tasted whisky, how many of us can say that we’ve truly tried to understand the complexities that define our favourite drink? And how does one land on a whisky that best suits a particular palate? How does one become one’s own Whisky Master? The perfect peg doesn’t happen by chance, it’s an art. The good news is that by following five simple steps, one can enjoy the best whisky experience:  

Select a quality brand 

It is important to opt for a brand that is well-known for the quality of its taste, whether that’s complex or simple. Black Dog 21 YO and 18 YO can arguably be considered as the two best options available in the market. Both have rich flavours that burst out and sink smoothly down the throat. 

Choose the right glass

Special attention needs to be paid to the shape and size of the glass. A tumbler is considered to be the traditional glass for whisky drinking and is best suited to the more confident drinker. Tulip-shaped glasses are most appropriate as they help in swirling the whisky around the glass. The shape helps concentrate the aromas in the neck, which is why it is the most suitable glass.  

Use your Nose

Nosing is the most important part of assessing a whisky and most experts say ‘Tasting is to reassure you of what your nose has already confirmed’. Remember to pour some whisky in the glass, swirl it and throw it away. This helps you get rid of any water in the glass. Next, pour some of the amber liquid in and swirl it again. Bring it close to your nose and say hello. This helps the drinker understand the flavours of the whisky.  

Develop your Palate

Once the swirling has been completed, roll the drink for a minimum of 15 seconds. It is appropriate to make a ‘mmmm’ sound just as the drink is about to be tasted. The time has come to finally let the amber liquid sink down your throat slowly and smoothly.  

Add the right mix

You may have your peg either neat or on the rocks. When making it neat, remember to pour only a few drops of bottled water at room temperature. The notes will begin to explode in your mouth as the whisky settles on the palate.  If you’re drinking it on the rocks, it’s important to remember that it takes just a few ice cubes for your drink to be ready. While a drop of water can undoubtedly unlock the subtleties of the whisky, adding too many ice cubes will dilute the taste. Hence, it is important to maintain a fine balance.

Japanese author Haruki Murakami once said, “Whiskey, like a beautiful woman, demands appreciation. You gaze first, then it’s time to drink.” Get this right and you will have the perfect whisky peg waiting for you; let the golden liquid down your throat to become your own Master of Whisky.