Whisky is by far the most rich spirit in terms of its flavour profile. It is undoubtedly a result of the centuries of toil that have gone into distilleries honing their craft. Hence it is the hallmark of any great brand to separate itself from the pack by providing a unique character to its whisky.
Today it is important to note that most whisky’s are owned by the MNC Diageo. This has resulted in the corporation investing a lot of resources into branding and marketing its numerous products. Master Still masters have thus come up with an ingenious little tool called a flavour map. This has been translated by many drinkers and companies to suit their own tastes, I myself have a version that you can see below. By finding a popular whisky on the map that you like, one can chart down what region it belongs to. That is whether it is Smoky, Light, Delicate or Rich. From there you can see what whiskies share characteristics with your favourite distillery and begin your voyage into the countless variations of whisky you can find today.
Before we begin with understanding the flavour camps of whisky let us begin by understanding the 4 axis of the map:
- LIGHT – This is a term used to describe how Smooth a whisky is on the palate.
- RICH – A term used to describe how Strong a whisky is on the palate.
- SMOKY – This is the smoky flavour given by Peat in the whisky making process
- DELICATE – More delicate the whisky easier it is to identify the underlying flavour
- FRAGRANT & FLORAL – As an Aperitif Served Chilled in a wine glass
One can obtain the aromas of fresh cut flowers, fruit blossoms, grass and green fruit, you can also notice these whisky’s primarily inhabit the area between light and delicate whisky. This kind of whisky is ideal to accompany an acidic or lightly prepared meal.*Aperitif- drink intended to stimulate the palate at the start of a meal.
- MALTY & DRY – Good Aperitif or breakfast whisky
These whisky’s posses a certain dustiness much like flour or breakfast cereal’s, as well as a mild nuttiness. However they are most certainly balanced with a hint of sweet oak. Again one can notice how they are primarily in the Light and Delicate region of the map. *Breakfast Whisky – please understand that I do not encourage drinking in the morning (although Winston Churchill was famous for it) this merely refers to a meal that is similar to breakfast in terms of its components.
- FRUITY & SPICY – Good any time of the day
With the flavours of ripe fruit such as pears, peaches, apricot and even tropical fruit like mango and coconut, it is ideal to have at any course of the meal. The flavours are often finished with spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg while still retaining notes of fresh fruit.
- RICH & ROUND – After dinner time or mid meal
These whisky’s give of aromas of figs, dates, sultanas and even European oak. They also posses high levels of tannins which for whisky is what you want with a cigar over dinner. They also posses a depth to their flavour which is unique unto their own.
- SMOKY & PEATY – Young with soda and old served neat after dinner
Smoke is unlike anything else found in the world of drinks, it is what in my opinion makes a great whisky. The subtle aromas of peat permeate the whisky giving it a beautiful richness. Imagine what you love about bacon or a good tandoori dish, that chary taste liquefied is an absolute treat for the senses.