It’s one of the world’s most recognised drinks, but whisky isn’t always people’s first choice at the bar.
There are plenty of diehard aficionados, for sure. But to many of the rest of us, whisky has never seemed quite as drinkable as rum, as versatile as vodka or as trendy as gin.
But we’ve got that all wrong, Katie Nager, the National Whisky Ambassador for beverage giant Diageo, told news.com.au. In fact, there’s a lot of happily surprising things about scotch whisky we don’t know but really should.
“I have found one of the biggest misconceptions around scotch whisky is that if you don’t like one, you don’t like them all,” she said.
“As part of my job, I regularly lead people through scotch tastings highlighting different regional styles and how these regions affect flavour, offering a diverse and interesting range of different flavours to explore. Often audience members are surprised to find just how different scotch can taste from one distillery to the next.”
Talisker single malt scotch whisky is in Diageo’s stable of spirits. It’s crafted at the oldest distillery on the Isle of Skye in Scotland, and while it has a long history — the distillery was founded in 1830 — it’s winning over a newer and wider generation of drinkers.
WHISKY ISN’T SUPER BOUJEE ANYMORE
While whisky was once seen as a symbol of exclusivity and status, “we have definitely seen a change in who is drinking whisky”, Ms Nager said.
“We’re seeing diversity in age and sex, with many new people drinking whisky,” she said.
“An example is Talisker. What might be seen as a challenging whisky as it has smoky flavour is appealing to a younger whisky drinker who’s wanting more full-on flavour experiences.”
YOU DON’T HAVE TO DRINK IT ‘NEAT’
Another thing people don’t realise is how versatile whisky is. On a recent media trip to Tasmania, hosted by Talisker, guests were treated to whisky hot chocolates and refreshing whisky cocktails.
That’s a far cry from the outdated, puritanical attitude that prohibits even adding ice.
“So many people fear being shunned for adding something minor to their whisky, like water or ice. It’s a real shame because scotch is exceptionally versatile and has a wide array of drink applications,” Ms Nager said.
“For example, one of my favourite serves is the Talisker campfire hot chocolate, made with Talisker 10-year-old, milk, dark chocolate powder, sugar syrup and finished with a toasted marshmallow. I try every chance I get to feature scotch in cocktails in an effort to shift people’s perceptions around to how it can be used.
“There are no rules in whisky, and it can be consumed in the traditional neat style, in a mixed drink or cocktail. For example, the Talisker spiced hot toddy, made with Talisker 10-year-old, honey, lemon, Bee Mead, topped with gum leaves.
“I believe that it’s about finding the right whisky that speaks to that particular person’s style. Whisky may still not be their favourite spirit, but I can guarantee that you can usually find at least one that they can enjoy.”
YOU CAN MATCH IT WITH FOOD, LIKE WINE
Another thing people don’t realise is whisky, like wine, can be cleverly paired with food to enhance the flavour of both.
“It’s important to remember when pairing whisky with food to match flavour intensity,” Ms Nager said.
“Talisker is a robust and powerful single malt that requires a food or dish that can stand up to it. Talisker and oysters is an iconic pairing. The intense richness and brininess of the oysters play the perfect partner to Talisker’s sweet smoky, spicy and salty flavour.”
NOT ALL WHISKIES TASTE THE SAME
And above all else, there is massive diversity in the whisky world. So if you haven’t been won over yet, it’s likely you haven’t found the right variety for you.
“Different people will have different palate preferences and preferred ways to drink their whisky,” Ms Nager said.
“For example, The Singleton Dufftown is fruity — sweet spice and pear — and smooth from a mix of different cask styles, while Talisker has smoky, salty, spicy flavouring.
“There is no right or wrong. I think it is important to try a whisky neat first to understand its true character. From there, if you want to add water for dilution, some ice or even a mixer — the choice is yours. The ‘right way’ to enjoy it should be whichever way is ‘right’ for you.”
RECIPES TO TRY FOR YOURSELF
Talisker hot chocolate
50ml Talisker 10-year-old or Skye or Port Ruighe
125ml milk (dairy or oat)
2 tbs dark chocolate powder
10ml sugar syrup
Add all ingredients to a milk frothing jug, heat/stretch the milk and pour into a mug, top with a marshmallow to serve.
Talisker spiced hot toddy
(Serves four, approx. 1.6 standard drinks per serve)
120ml Talisker 10-year-old scotch whisky
60ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup water
500ml Bee Mead (available at Dan Murphy’s)
1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon quill
1 star anise
Heat honey, lemon juice, water, mead and spices in a pot. Bring to the boil and let simmer for 10 minutes. Add 30ml of Talisker into four preheated mugs and strain in the mixture. Garnish with a little nutmeg and top with gum leaves.
The writer travelled to Tasmania as a guest of Talisker.