This winter do yourself a favour: learn to love whiskey. Spirits ambassador Michael Nouri explains how...
What advice would you give to someone who’s fairly new to whisky but is keen to dive in?
Well, I would generally avoid suggesting a heavily peated whisky to someone on their virgin whisky voyage, as these tend to be quite polarising. You might like to go for a lighter style that's more rounded, a Japanese single malt whisky that's lighter and more delicate, such as Hakushu Distiller’s Reserve for a fresh, herbaceous character, or Yamazaki Distiller’s Reserve for a bunch fruit and oak decadence. Beyond that, a lighter style Scottish single malt which tends to be more approachable like Auchentoshan 12 year old. It’s triple-distilled and aged in American and European oak casks for a full flavour that doesn’t feel like a meal.
Why should I put a drop of water in my whisky?
There’s no rules that you have to follow. The right way to drink whisky is the way that you most enjoy it. Neat will deliver the pure essence of the whisky. But for a high-proof or very intense whiskey it might be too much to handle. Adding a few drops of water reduces the alcohol content and intensity to allow the softer, delicate nuances to come out. It opens up the whisky. You may not feel the need to do it for lighter whiskies that are lower in alcohol content. Experiment, you will certainly notice a marked difference to how it tastes and smells.
Jim Murray's Whisky Bible recently named Booker's Rye as the "World Whisky of the Year" for 2017. What’s all the fuss about?
Booker Noe is an iconic whiskey identity. He was the grandson of Jim Beam and the first person to take old-world craft bourbon to the world. This was some of the last whiskey to be laid down by Booker before he passed in 2004. The key factor about Booker’s Rye Whiskey is that it's a “one-off batch whiskey”. Once it’s gone it’s gone forever. It was made from less than 100 barrels in total. It's just over 13 years old, bottled at cast-strength and non-chill filtered. A really muscular and intense whiskey. What's so special about it is that, despite its strength of 68.1 per cent ABV, it's immensely complex, layered and not harsh. It's like silk in your mouth.
What’s the best sort of glass to drink my whisky out of?
Again, there's no right or wrong. A nice rocks glass is great if you're drinking an Old Fashioned. But if we're having an event we'll always serve in a tear-drop shaped glasses, like a Glencairn glass. The idea is that it holds all the heavy characteristics of the whisky in the bulbous portion of the glass, but also has a tapered mouth that allows for a better concentrations of aromas. Basically, it allows you to smell more than a shot in a tumbler.
Any recommendations for a whisky cocktail this winter?
When it comes to a mixed drink it's impossible to go past an Old Fashioned. It's magic in a glass. I'd recommend using a bourbon like Maker’s Mark because it's flavoursome and easy to work with. In a solid rocks glass, simply mix 60ml Makers Mark, 10ml sugar syrup, and a couple of dashes of aromatic bitters. Briefly stir over ice and garnish with a twist of fresh orange peel.
Finally what’s your personal hangover cure?
Powerade and watermelon. I find watermelon is the only thing I can eat when I'm hungover. Drinking Powerade before you go to bed or in the morning might help because it's full of electrolytes.