Whisky tastingWhen I had my first sip of whisky at the Astor Center today, I remembered something: I hate whisky.

But I’d run out of ideas for my boyfriend’s Christmas present and, seeing as the one-time teetotaler has been drinking incremenetally more over the course of our relationship, I thought he’d appreciate an excuse to drink some alcohol under the guise of ‘tasting lesson’. And who knows, if he decides that he actually like the taste of whisky, then I’ll be sorted for every Christmas after, as I could just get him Whisky gifts every year. But I might have to spicy it up every now and then with some more exotic whisky. Maybe some Japanese Whisky would be a nice way to change it up.

The tasting was held in a modern classroom at the Astor Center, on E. 4th and Lafayette. There was stainless steel, lines of filled glasses, information sheets about the process of making it and powerpoint presentations – and at first it was all a bit over my head. I didn’t know about the old wooden barrels for sale cheap, or how they aged the alcohol in them.

Whisky tasting

But I actually learned some things about whisky:

  • You use words like ‘mandoor’, ‘endosperm’ and ‘monkey shoulder’ when describing the process
  • Making whisky is an exact process but they cheat – adding caramel to create a deep colour
  • Don’t inhale deeply! And don’t add ice if you want to keep the flavour
  • I lived in Scotland for four years but never knew of a whisky region named ‘Speyside’
  • Terroir – the theory that the flavour of a whisky is tied to its environment thanks to variables like temperature, type of water or where the barely is grown – is actually a contentious debate, and some distilleries can create several types in one place

Whisky tasting

At the end of the session, our teacher told us to go back to the beginning and try the first whisky we had sampled at the beginning of the night. And somehow, it no longer tasted of nail polish remover. My boyfriend and I were calling it fruity or smoky and actually meant it.

Although to be honest, he probably had no idea what he was talking about. He’d necked his – and my glasses – in one swift move, and was eyeing the untouched glasses beside us. Classy. And a Christmas present well chosen.