The malt master knows: Tips on drinking whiskey

David Stewart, the Scotch industry's longest serving Malt Master.

David Stewart, known throughout the Scotch industry as the “modest man of whisky” began working at The Balvenie Distillery in 1962 (that’s 50 years of Scotch drinking, lucky man). So who better to ask for a few tips on how to act like a Scotch drinking pro than him?

Check the age: “If you’re drinking a 12, 15 or a younger-blended whisky, I’d recommend adding a little bit of still, clean water at room temperature,” says Stewart on how to best sip it. “The water helps to open up the aromas and the flavor of it. For an aged whisky such as a  30- or 40-year-old or beyond, you wouldn’t add any water because it’s so smooth, mellow and rich already. Enjoy it after a meal or even with a cigar.”

Glassware helps: Stewart notes that real Scotch pros use a tulip-shaped glass, which has a small opening at the top to help to capture the aroma. “Have a sniff of it. Smell the nice florals and sweetness before sipping,” he instructs. Stewart notes that a normal tumbler is fine to use in a pinch but “the aromas can disperse quite quickly” in that kind of glass.

The region will influence the taste: “There are so many different flavors of Scotch,”?he notes. “From the floral, sweet, honey flavors that you get from the Speyside region of Scotland all the way to the smoky, peaty flavors that you get from the islands off the West Coast,” he says. If you’re looking for a lighter, more delicate experience,  look for distilleries located in the middle of the country.”

The label tells all: “Most single-malts start at 10 years old and get up to 30 and 40 years  old,”?he says. “The older the age, the more you’ll have to spend.”?Stewart also recommends looking at what kind of cask is used, a distinction that should be noted on the bottle. “Sherry casks or special finishes will influence the taste.”


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