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Trying Whisky for the First Time

While most alcoholic drinks are something you can pick up and drink without much thought, whisky is different. It requires all of your attention, from why you are drinking it to how to get the best experience from every sip.

If you’re looking to try whisky drinking for the first time, then there are some considerations before picking up a bottle and pouring a glass. Things like strength, flavour and style will dictate your experience, so you need to pay extra attention when selecting your bottle.

Firstly you need to decide on what type of whisky you want to try, there are four main styles to choose from:

  • Single malt - This is a malt whisky produced from a single distillery and commonly associated Scotch.
  • Blended malt - A whisky made using malt from different distilleries, blended to make one drink.
  • Single grain - Similar to single malt, this whisky is made from one grain that isn't malted barley from one distillery.
  • Blended whisky - This is a blend of single malts and grains from different distilleries.

Just because the production methods for these whiskies can differ, they do not necessarily affect the flavour, this means a single malt can have similar tasting notes to blended

Although there are no proper rules when it comes to type of whisky, usually blended whisky will be of a lower quality. This is because the blended will have used one or more lower quality ingredients and added a small amount of high quality ingredients to balance the flavour. However, don’t let this make you think blended whisky is bad, price in this instance will reflect the quality of the blend.

Talking about pricing, in most situations the price will often dictate the quality. However this isn’t always the case, some cheaper whiskies can be amazing and some expensive ones can be hard to swallow. It depends on what you want from a drink, If you are looking for something to mix with a soft drink, then just a simple blended whisky will do, but if you want a drinking experience where the whisky is the main part, then treat yourself to something high quality which tends to be more expensive.

For a beginner bottle of whisky, you could expect to pay around £50 for a good blended whisky. If you are looking for a single malt then you should look around the £75 mark.

Once you’ve bought your first bottle or two you should have an idea of what you do and don’t like. Maybe you prefer a smoky flavour? Or one with a bit of sweetness. The chances of you finding your perfect bottle the first time is slim, so don’t assume you dislike all whisky just because your first bottle wasn’t great - There will be others to choose from.

Raluca, Store Manager of Turmeaus Liverpool recommends the following: “Great whiskies to try as a beginner are usually the softer, fruitier styles. This could include Speyside whiskies, which tend to be sweeter or lowlands, which tend to be softer and maltier. Japanese are also a good option as the floral notes tend to be the highlight.”
Personal recommendations from Raluca include the Balvenie 14 Year Old Caribbean Cask which is sweet and creamy with notes of apples and mangos. The Lindores Cask of Lindores Bourbon which is fruity and mellow and the Hibiki Harmony which is sweet and spicy.

You can adapt the flavour by adding water or ice cubes, this can enhance or dampen the flavours so try experimenting with different whiskies and water combinations. 

Nosing the drink can be a great first step in finding the flavours to come. Common flavours found are vanilla, toffee or caramel. For Scotch whisky, you can expect anything from smoky leather to fruity notes, so you’ll need to test a few different drinks from different regions to find out what you like.

Overall, it’s hard to pick a specific whisky for beginners as it depends on what you are looking for. The first bottle I enjoyed was the C.Gars Orchant Seleccion Cigar Malt, a lovely and sweet whisky with plenty of honey and vanilla. My personal favourite is the Dalmore 12 Year Old. Beautiful notes of vanilla and sherry with a hint of citrus - A must have in my opinion!

Click here to view our range of whisky

Written by Oliver Partington