From being a complete newbie when it comes to whiskey, I left a whiskey tasting event with a lot of new insight. It really opened my eyes to whiskey characteristics that I never paid attention to before: the warmth, the sharp smell, the subtle flavors. These are things that truly separate whiskey from nation to nation. The most beautiful thing of all is realizing that the particularities in taste are shaped by their environment. What surrounds them affects the taste; the age affects the smell; and the method of production affects the warmth. In a sense, a sip of whiskey tells you a story of its origins of when, where, and how.
So, how can you actually tell the difference between popular whiskeys? With a plethora of factors to consider, it can really boil down to two things: the smell and the taste. Take all of this with a grain of salt, though. At the end of the day, these are all just my opinions and this can vary from person to person. This just serves as a guide the next time your curiosity points you to a bottle of whiskey.
The smell of whiskey can be a gentle introduction to what it holds; but just as much, it can also be a surprise for later. It doesn’t take an expert to appreciate the scent of whiskey. It really only takes patience and observation to bask in its beautiful aroma.
During the taste test, we were given three glasses of whiskey that came from some of the main and most popular producers: America, Ireland, and Scotland. Based completely on the senses, Irish whiskey seems to have a sweeter aroma – not overly aggressive and with a hint of wood. Scottish whiskey is actually quite similar to Irish whiskey, except it has a stronger smell – one that really wakens the senses. Out of all three, the American whiskey smells unique. It has the most straightforward scent – a pungent punch of alcohol with traces of charcoal.
Perhaps the most important of all is the taste. The American whiskey is surprisingly crisp. The taste really comes out only after the whiskey has completely covered the tongue. If I were to divide it into segments, I would say that about two-thirds of the time, the whiskey is clear and tasteless, but the final third of it is when all of its flavors rise.
Scottish whiskey, on the other hand, can be said to be more transparent. From the moment it touches your tongue, you get the sweet notes and strong alcohol taste that can really be felt up to the back of your throat. Finally, there’s Irish whiskey. In the same way, it is transparent – immediately tasting the sweet and woody elements. However, its main difference is the overall power of the alcohol. It almost misleads the senses, giving off both a strong and subtle alcoholic taste.
Given that, choosing a whiskey is very personal. You have to find one that best suits you, one that understands you as much as you understand it. I found my home in Irish whiskey, but yours can come from a completely different country or state. Explore, observe, compare – finding the right whiskey is trial and error.