Friday, June 10, 2016

Tips to Develop Your Whisky Palate!

The subject of whisky appreciation is intimidating. Why? Probably because good whisky is expensive, which means it has been traditionally the drink of the affluent and gold crest embossed navy blazer wearing, private school educated prats, whose only claim to fame was having the dumb luck of winning the genetic lottery of "fabulously rich parents."

You and I are not enjoying summering-in-The-Hamptons prosperity, and therefore not part of the clubby world of those incredibly annoying whisky pretenders.  We do not spend our evenings sipping fine single malts in dim paneled libraries, lit by the soft yellow glow of antique Tiffany lamps, discussing politics, the current price of light sweet crude, and the latest society scandal that the fourth estate hasn't gotten wind of yet.  I mean did Chad really do donuts with his mother's robin's egg blue '74 Porsche 911 on the judge's lawn that night?  The young man should have dealt with his disappointing fiance in a more elegant manner.  He should have challenged the old lecherous barrister to a duel in the park on Sunday at noon.  I would have been his second, by George!

Hell no!  That's not us.  But, we do know a few of the know-it-all cretins who put on such airs, and deftly cut us to pieces when they ask us pithy questions, usually at whisky festivals, like: Debly, what do you taste in this single malt?  Well, the next time the ascot wearing Mr. Peanut tries to pull that passive aggressive shit on you brother, you gonna hit back so hard that the ivy league pug is gonna cry for his mommy.   Not literally bro, we're gonna do it up high society like, we gonna retort like a poet!  Let's mow the muther down with a solid howitzer volley of astute whisky observations.  How you ask?  Worry pas ta brain, it's easy peasey lemon squeezy.

Imagine yourself in your Mother's kitchen back when you were a kid, before you became the suburban teenager who played nothing but NWA and Public Enemy in your 'crib' (aka bedroom).  Conjure up your inner child's vision of Mom's or maybe Grandma's kitchen in the country.  OK?  What do you see?  What do you smell?  What do you taste?  The crystal bowl of strawberries from the field?  Still warm from the noon hour sun?  Cherries? Over there on the counter is the sliced watermelon.  Yeah, now you're getting the hang of it.  Now, imagine what it tasted like to you as a kid.  You know.  Good.  Okay now turn to the spice rack. Cardamon, Kosher salt, peppercorns, sage, parsley, dill?  Don't forget that pitcher of spring water with a slices of lemon floating on top.  What's that in the oven?  Apple pie. In the cupboard, boxes of cereal and oats. In the bread box, rye bread and a jar of wild honey.

Now, take the tiniest of sips of your whisky.  I mean the tiniest, like the size of a quarter on your palate, hold it for twenty seconds and ask yourself what do you taste?  Rye bread?   Maybe some caraway seed in there too? Is there some strawberry lurking under it all.  Swallow.  What remains for flavors?  Was your sip initially sweet and then once gone left you with dusty rose notes?  Cereal notes?  Black pepper?  Now let your mind go wild?  Just roam through the kitchen ingredients in your mind.  Yeah, it does kinda taste like balsa wood, it is dry, that is what balsa wood would taste like if a person actually tried balsa wood.  Now tell Chauncey what you taste in single words.  Keep it simple.  Save the Lord Byron poetry for the ladies in the parlor.

"Sweetness.  Honey.  Caramel.  Oak."  Pause for affect and think what are the flavors left with you after swallowing.  Now raise your game and use two words:  "Creme brulee or dark toast or fruit cake or  lemon meringue."

People will be impressed because your response is honest and accurate.  If Bryce removes his cigarette holder from the corner of his mouth and snickers a put-down of any kind, you have my permission to slug him!  Besides, anyone who holds the opinion that the BBC's Pride and Prejudice miniseries is better than Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby deserves a good smashing.  And, I will act as your second if you are challenged to a duel!


Jason Debly


  1. Well done, this was an entertaining AND informative read!

    1. I don't always succeed, but I am trying to make writing about whisky, as you say "entertaining and informative." As I am sure you are aware, the typical whisky review or article about the spirit in the mainstream media (e.g. Whisky Magazine or Malt Advocate) are just so damn boring. I think part of the reason for that is that the distilleries they profile are big advertisers in the magazine and so they don't want to bite the hand that feeds them. Hence, the writing is conservative, takes no chances and as a result is quite boring.

      The whisky distillery profile invariable starts with a discussion of some guy who had a grocery and blended his own whisky, he became well known across the land and then bought a distillery that a few years later burnt down but out of the ashes they rebuilt it better, blah, blah , blah.

      Anyhow, thanks for commenting!

  2. That was coool Jas.
    But I still struggle to find these little nuances mate ... and it frustrates me so much !
    I'll have a small Ardbeg a bit later, and I know I'll get smoke.... but then i'll say to myself... c'mon!! why can't I get these other bits.... like bacon? ... That's why I can't justify spending big $$ when I know I can't decypher what's 'in it' It won't stop me......but still....
    AL(from OZ)

    1. Don't let a little loss for words prevent you from buying some great whiskies. I think it just takes a lot of time and experience and memories of the kitchen.


  3. Thanks, trust me... your tasting notes are so bloody helpful.
    Nice and cold down here... Any suggestions ?
    Thinking Spey or Highland.... Aultmore 12 any good?

  4. Thanks for my morning laugh and keep up the great work.

  5. Dalmore 12... lets see. Cookie dough on the nose. Palate: fruit and raisin, and a bit of Sherry. Finish: smooth. Malt and some cinnamon. Long like the live version of Since I've Been Lovin You. And one of my favorites, along with Dalwhinnie. My first tasting notes. Officially on Jason's blog.

    Thanks for the blog J. Keep up the good work and excellent reviews. James Everett.