The Discerning Dram – How to ID Your Whisky Like a Pro
We all have them. Those nagging recollections, those guilty secrets, those faded memories that stubbornly remain afloat in the pool of time. They still make you cringe, they still make you wince and they still make you wish that you had heeded the Headmasters bellowed advice of, think boy, think! That ill-advised act of investigational tinkering that lead you, at an age when you really should have known better, to try and play a Jacobs Cream Cracker in your fathers shiny new top-of-the-range CD player?
Or the moment, a few years later when, on obtaining your driving licence, you decided that what your fathers pride and joy really needed (a Granada Ghia 2.8 if you were lucky) was a damn good thrashing, only for you to receive same but not until the painful spectacle of the RAC pulling it out of a hedge had indelibly seared itself into your long-term memory.
But fear not, help is at hand. It is for such transgressions that Fathers Day was invented. A national day of celebration that provides you with the opportunity to apologise for that unfortunate experiment involving a golf ball, the neighbours greenhouse and subsequent deductions from your pocket-money. But does yet another new tie or a pair of comedy socks really make up for that mysterious stain on the kitchen ceiling that only you (and two dozen or so of your closest friends) know to be lime and vodka jelly? No, of course it doesn’t. So, time to give the Old Man something hell like, something hell savour, something hell use to numb the pain of having children. Yes, it’s time to give him a bottle of whisky. And not any old stuff, he really deserves a single malt (remember what you did to the fish in the pond?).
But what if you don’t know your Scapa from your Springbank or your Lagavulin from your Laphroaig? What if your idea of a smoky dram is a pint of lager and a fag? What if you are a male and therefore congenitally unable to ask for advice when purchasing? Well, worry no more. Step forward those nice (and very hospitable) people at Diageo.
Diageo, in case you hadn’t heard, is the company behind everything from Smirnoff to Dom Perignon, from Gordons to Captain Morgan. They also have a rather impressive stable of malts – what they call the Classic Malts. Operating 27 single malt distilleries in Scotland, Diageo can proudly boast of names like Dalwhinnie, Oban, Talisker and Caol Ila as being amongst their thoroughbreds. But, with so many different ages, regions and brands, identifying whose whisky will suit whose taste, can be tricky. Fortunately help is at hand with the launch of the Single Malt Whisky Flavour Map. Created by a panel of experts who, having one of the best jobs on the planet, tasted their way through dram after exquisite dram to bring you a palatable way of differentiating between a 10-year-old malt from Skye and a 16-year-old malt from Islay, without making you look like the sort of person more used to ordering a bottle of something luridly coloured and fizzy.
The Flavour Map, developed by Diageo in close co-operation with independent whisky authority, Dave Broom, plots whiskies and their flavours on a grid according to levels of certain characteristics. As Dave Broom says, whisky isn’t complicated, it has just never been explained properly. The Flavour Map changes this and is a major step forward in helping people gain a greater understanding of this magnificent spirit.
And magnificent is the word. Using the Flavour Map, all malt whiskies have been plotted on a simple grid with characteristics that everyone can relate to, ranging from smoky to delicate and light to rich. Using these two intersecting axes, Diageos master tasters have not only plotted the Classic Malts Selection but have also included, for the purposes of comparison, well-known single malts from other distillers. The result is a map where both the uninitiated and the expert alike can not only identify the individual characteristics of a single malt but can also see how different single malts compare with each other. As Nicholas Morgan, Diageos global marketing director for single malt whiskies told LUSSO, malt whisky is perhaps the worlds most sophisticated and enjoyable spirit, with a huge variety of tastes and flavours to explore. The Flavour Map revolutionises the way we talk about single malts. And I’m sure that, come Fathers day, your Old Man will appreciate the effort. After all, remember what happened when you let the budgie out to stretch its wings.