Welcome to the world of whisky! If you're a beginner, the thought of drinking and appreciating whisky can be intimidating. But fear not; we have got you covered with an exclusive interview with Whisky & Alement, an intimate whisky bar located on Russell Street, Melbourne. These guys have a wealth of whisky knowledge that will help you navigate the world of whisky (and whiskey) and give you tips on how to enjoy it and how to choose the proper glassware.
Who is Whisky & Alement?
At Whisky & Alement, you can expect a warm and friendly atmosphere that caters to all levels of whisky lovers. Whether you're a seasoned whisky drinker or just starting, they have an impressive collection of whiskies from around the world that caters to everyone's taste buds.
The bar also has an extensive selection of craft beers and creative cocktails, tasting flights, and rare whiskies you can't find anywhere else in Australia. According to Broadsheet, their whisky bar “rivals the best in the world in terms of both its offering and its atmosphere.”
Whisky Recommendations for Beginners
If you're new to the world of whisky, Whisky & Alement recommends trying something that's not too strong and not too expensive. Identifying the best whisky for beginners starts with asking as many questions as you can to determine your flavour preferences - sweet, smokey, fruity, or light and refreshing - there are so many varieties of whisky available it won’t take too long to find one that complements your taste and palate.
With this information, they can recommend a whisky tailored to your preferences. They also suggest trying a few whiskies by the half-nip or mixing a whisky with soda or a cocktail to help you discover what you like.
Scotch & Bourbon, What’s The Difference?
Now that we have a better understanding of what type of whisky to choose let's dive into the differences between Bourbon and Scotch. Which one is it, Whisky or Whiskey?
Scotch Whisky must come from Scotland and is typically made from barley. There is a vast range of flavours and styles, from light and approachable to big, bold, smoky, cask-strength whiskies.
Bourbon Whiskey, on the other hand, is an American style of whiskey made from at least 51% corn and must be produced in the United States. It is aged in brand-new barrels, giving it a distinct wood flavour.
You’ll also notice the addition of the letter e. While the difference in spelling can be a bit confusing to the uninitiated, there's actually a pretty simple explanation!
The main reason bourbon whiskey is spelt with an "e" comes down to differences in the spelling conventions used in their countries of origin. Bourbon whiskey is primarily produced in the United States, where the spelling convention for whiskey includes an "e" between the "k" and the "y" - so it's spelt "whiskey".
On the other hand, Scotch whisky is produced in Scotland, where the spelling convention does not include an "e", - so it's spelt "whisky".
There are some theories about why this spelling difference originated, such as the influence of Irish immigrants who brought their spelling conventions to the United States. However, the most likely explanation is that the spelling conventions evolved independently in each country and became firmly established as part of each country's whiskey-making tradition over time.
The spelling difference between bourbon whiskey and Scotch whisky is primarily a matter of regional spelling conventions. But regardless of how you spell it, both types of whiskey are delicious in their own way!
Why is Whisky Aged?
You might be wondering why and how whisky is aged. Well, if it weren't aged, it would be a raw spirit without any colour. Raw grain spirit (all whisky is made from grains) is placed into a wooden cask. The spirit soaks into the wood and picks up flavour, while the wood also acts as a filter that removes undesirable notes.
Over time, the whisky gains texture and character, while the more volatile elements tend to evaporate away. Whisky is aged in various casks, from freshly charred oak to casks that have previously held wines or other whiskies, resulting in an incredibly complex and diverse spirit.
Whisky Sour Recipe
Now that we have a basic understanding of whisky let's talk about one of Whisky & Alement's favourite ways to enjoy whisky, the Whisky Sour.
Here's how to make it:
• 45ml whisky (Port Charlotte 10-year-old single malt Scotch is their house whisky for the Whisky Sour, but any good • Scotch, Rye, Bourbon, Australian, or Irish whisky will work)
• 25ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
• 10ml 2:1 sugar syrup (1 cup sugar dissolved in half a cup boiling water)
• 20ml fresh egg white (for a vegan version, use the liquid from a can of chickpeas or a couple of drops of Wonderfoam)
1. 45ml whisky (Port Charlotte 10-year-old single malt Scotch is their house whisky for the Whisky Sour, but any good • Scotch, Rye, Bourbon, Australian, or Irish whisky will work)
2. 25ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
3. 10ml 2:1 sugar syrup (1 cup sugar dissolved in half a cup boiling water)
4. 20ml fresh egg white (for a vegan version, use the liquid from a can of chickpeas or a couple of drops of Wonderfoam)
You can find all of these bar accessories and more at Minimax.
Much like wine glasses, specialty glassware products are designed for drinking whisky (and whiskey), enhancing the flavour and aroma of the drink. One such glassware is the Glencairn glass, a popular choice among whisky enthusiasts.
The Glencairn glass has a tulip-shaped bowl designed to capture and concentrate the aromas of the whisky, while the broad base allows for the drink to be swirled, and the narrow mouth directs the bouquets to the nose. This sturdy and comfortable glassware makes it a practical choice for whisky tasting.
Alternatively, a traditional tumbler glass with a broader and shorter bowl than the Glencairn glass can also be used. However, this type of glassware may only capture part of the range of aromas and flavours of the whisky and the Glencairn glass.
Overall, whichever glassware is chosen, it is essential to ensure that it is clean and free from any residual odours or flavours that could affect the taste of the whisky. Oh, and don’t forget a coaster.
Looking for more whisky-related events and experiences? Whisky & Alement hosts weekly events and whisky classes, including intimate tastings with international guests like John McCheyne, the Global Ambassador for the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. Plus, they’re always cooking up secret projects, so visit their website to learn more!