“My own experience has been that the tools I need for my trade are paper, tobacco, food, and a little whisky.”
– William Faulkner
Neither my wife nor I have had much of a taste for whisky in the past (the occasional Jack Daniels inspired teenage binge notwithstanding). Lately, however, this has started feeling more and more like a lapse in judgement so we’ve decided to rectify this over the coming months and, with the noblest of intent, get ourselves to the point where we enjoy a dram of whisky as much as a serve of port, a glass of good red wine, or a freshly-made Bloody Mary. It’s all about the choice, you see.
There is no shortage of guides out there to help a whisky drinker take their tentative first steps, so we did some homework and eventually settled on a Dalwhinnie 15 year old single malt scotch whisky. We chose this because it was supposed to be relatively mild, uncomplicated, and not too expensive for a starter whisky (and, with a bit of shopping around, we even managed to get it $15 lower than the list price!).
First plunge was Saturday night. Having cracked open the bottle a little earlier in the day for a quick snifter I’ll admit we were pretty excited about our pending first taste. So we got everything ready and settled down with our son in front of Jurassic Park (few quick points of clarification: our 8-year-old son is NOT joining us on the Summer of Whisky; Jurassic Park was not chosen for any whisky-related reasons, simply because we had it and we fancied watching it).
We had a few moments of deliberation over whether to add water or not. Eventually we came down on the side of adding a few drops (literally a teaspoonful). I’m pretty confident this was the right choice: apparently the water softens the hit of the alcohol a bit so you can enjoy the flavours a little more. The other bit of advice we took on board was to ignore the first sip: you just get it in there to prepare your insides for the rest of the experience.
And I can safely say it was a good experience. I’ve rarely appreciated whisky before. On the few occasions I’ve sampled it I’ve often struggled to finish the glass and certainly never been tempted to go back for seconds. As the reviews promised, the Dalwhinnie was relatively unchallenging, but had a bit of sweetness that helped it down. I spent most of the evening enjoying my dram, savouring the taste and getting used to that unique sensation as it goes down.
One curious side effect was that I could still taste the whisky the next day – but not in that awful, day-old, bottom-of-the-beer-bottle way. It was almost as though my insides had been primed, in the same way a wooden barrel will take on the characteristics of whatever it contains.
So, first time: great success. It’s certainly not going to be something we indulge in every night, rather we’ll save it for weekends, holidays, and other occasions where the sun rises and sets on the same day. We’re already looking forward to selecting and sampling our next whisky so come back in a few weeks to find out what we eventually decide to go with.
Oh – and if you have any recommendations I’d love to read about them in the comments.