Any suggestion on books for becoming a better Scotch drinker?
August 10, 2011 3:19 PM   Subscribe

Any suggestion on books for becoming a better Scotch drinker?

I'm having a hard time finding books about the essentials of nosing, how much water to apply, etc. I'd love to read more about the malting and distillation processes, how they affects the legs, body, nose and taste of the whisky. It seems like most of the books I've found on Amazon relate to reviewing various distilleries, regions or individuals single malt releases.
posted by sh1mmer to Food & Drink (8 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Michael Jackson! He was extremely respected.
I also kind of enjoyed the Iain Banks book on scotch, but it wasn't really about scotch.
posted by Stagger Lee at 3:21 PM on August 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

To clarify, Jackson's book is still mostly a guide to the distilleries, but it does have the other information you want, in short.
posted by Stagger Lee at 3:22 PM on August 10, 2011

Half of an answer, on the watering thing - Almost none. You don't have the goal of diluting the Scotch to tame it a bit (in fact, with some, it will make it more harsh), but you actually cause a chemical change.

You literally only need drops to radically change the flavor (and after that, it just starts watering it down). Personally, I like to take a sip dry, then add a single drop of water. Take another sip, add another drop. Repeat until done, with less than a teaspoon total water in 2-3oz of Scotch, and every sip will have a noticeably different taste and feel to it.

Usually, around the third or fourth drop, you'll notice a sudden, drastic change in taste.

As for books... Well, I prefer "hands-on" experience in in this case. :D
posted by pla at 4:12 PM on August 10, 2011

Drink more scotch.

No, really. That's it.

You can read as many books as you like, but unless you seriously get into sampling and experimenting with actual scotch, it isn't going to do you any good. Part of the experience is figuring the stuff out, how it behaves, how much water you like, which regions you prefer, whether or not (and if so to what extent) you like peat, the differences between ten-year, fifteen-year, and older vintages, etc.

The only real drawback here is that while a man with an excellent selection of scotch is likely to be happier than average, he's also likely to be broke.
posted by valkyryn at 4:14 PM on August 10, 2011 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: I certainly agree with the learning by doing, part. I also respect that other people know stuff and I'd love to hear/read about it. Hence the question.

I have no problem with the amount of water I apply, I certainly nose first, nose second, taste, before adding any water. I'm just interested in the process, how the water affects the whisky, and so on. I'm looking for good sources of information rather than having to Google my way to the answers from many places.
posted by sh1mmer at 4:17 PM on August 10, 2011

posted by John Cohen at 4:17 PM on August 10, 2011

Everything I learned about Scotch, I learned from Ralfy.
posted by bhayes82 at 5:15 PM on August 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Whisky Magazine has had the occasional article about the role of specific compounds in whisky, how they affect flavor, where they come from, how they're controlled in the distilling and maturation process etc.
(e.g.: phenols -> smokiness, esthers -> fruitiness, etc...)

Unfortunately those articles are going to be paywalled/for subscribers only.

In the end it's probably simply not complicated enough to warrant a dedicated book and at the same time too complicated to (pardon the pun) distill into an easily understood explanation. While there's a limited number of things going on in whisky in terms of classes of chemicals involved and the effect of tasting techniques on them the actual effect of them on us during tasting is rather complex and subject to myriads of factors and extremely subjective.

Some of the mechanisms are fairly simple. For example... one of the ways that a couple of drops of water will affect a dram is that alcohol is hydrophilic. Dumping a couple of drops into a dram will bind some of the alcohol that would otherwise numb your nose as you sniff. With the numbing effect reduced you'll find yourself getting more details and intensity out of the nose and the palate. Some compounds appear to stick to the skin instead of evaporating quickly, so oftentimes rubbing a drop of whisky on your arm will allow you to smell the wood of the cask separately from other flavor compounds.

I vote for learning by doing.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 5:21 PM on August 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

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