Whisky with Paul
My name is Paul Archibald, and I'm one half of the Rhythm & Booze Project with whisky writer and fellow musician Felipe Scriebgerg. Together we design events that combine live music and whisky tasting, as well sourcing & conditioning unique bottles.
My whisky passion began with a trip to Islay (the home of peaty whisky) many years ago, and I have returned every year since to sample special releases and play music across the island. From there I have grown to love whisky from all over Scotland, and many from elsewhere.
Key steps to tasting Whisky
There is absolutely no right or wrong way to go about any aspect of whisky tasting, although to get most out of it (when I'm concentrating!) I try to consider the following:
—nose: smelling the whisky before drinking prepares you for what's coming, and helps introduce flavours which may or may not be present when you taste it. Hold just far enough away to not be overwhelmed by alcohol vapours.
—taste: the main event; how does this compare to what you noticed on the nose? Hold in your mouth for a moment and try to identify one/some of the basics (sweet/salty/sour/bitter/umami). Going further and linking these to other common things (lemon/apples/berries... cut grass!)
—mouthfeel: move the whisky around your mouth and consider the feel; the texture. Think about words such as waxy, thin, silky, etc.
—finish: after swallowing, some whiskies' taste disappears quickly, but ideally there's a 'finish' — a lingering taste. What taste is left here?
In terms of adding water, it's absolutely not a sin — although some traditionalists (myself included!) don't like the idea of adding ice cubes, as this tends to 'shrink' the favour. That said, with other kinds of whisky, such as bourbon, I find ice cubes don't affect this as much. It really is personal taste, though. In terms of adding a little water, this can actually open up the flavours, particularly some cask strength whisky at around 65% ABV. Adding water is a personal choice — I often have half the glass without, and then add a little for the second half, to see if there's any difference, and hat I prefer.
All time Whisky & food pairings
I don't often drink whisky with food, but pairing can be fun, especially when one brings out an element in the other. I've had oysters with scotch whisky often, which is probably my favourite combination
Debunking Myths in Whisky
Myths that need debunked in whisky... there's probably quite a few, but the main one for me is colour. Most whisky is artificially coloured, and so this is often not a good indicator of how long it has been in the cask, or how much conditioning the liquid has had... best to ignore the colour so it doesn't influence your perception of taste one way or the other! That said, there are certainly some whiskies that aren't so if you're interested you should always check.
The Magic of Whisky & Cheese
The last time I paired cheese and whisky there was two approaches happening with different pairings: pairings that had similar characteristics, and enhanced what was already happening, and pairings that deliberately pull against each other, so that one intense flavour is neutralised by another, different, intense flavour. My favourite combination is probably peaty (smoky) whisky with a strong blue cheese.