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This Is How You Should Actually Be Drinking Whisky

(No) ice (no) ice baby.

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1. A “double malt” isn't better than a single malt.

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“A lot of visitors ask us what the difference is between a single and a double malt,” Julie Trevisan-Hunter from The Scotch Whisky Experience in Edinburgh explains to BuzzFeed Life. “But a double malt is like a double gin: it’s just a double measure.”

Single malt means a whisky that has been made with malted barley, yeast, and water at a single distillery.

2. Don’t turn your nose up at blended whisky.

"There’s certainly nothing inferior about a blended whisky like Famous Grouse or Johnnie Walker," says Trevisan-Hunter, who is a certified whisky adviser and a Keeper of the Quaich.

“People’s perception is that as it tends to be less expensive it must be lower quality, but a good blend is crafted with much more intuition than a single malt. It's the careful art of a master blender looking at thousands of individual casks of single malt to create something very specific. It certainly isn't just thrown together!”

3. Be aware that whiskey isn’t whisky.

It’s not just a spelling distinction: American and Irish whiskeys are very different to Scotch. Trevisan-Hunter explains: “Irish whiskey is made using different methods, while U.S. bourbon is made with corn instead of barley and matured in fresh (rather than aged) oak casks. Fresh oak contains the same chemicals you find in vanilla, which is why bourbon has a sweetness to it that you don’t find in Scotch.”


4. If you think you don't like whisky, you might have just not found the right one for you.

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“Lowland whiskies are lighter in character, with citrusy, grassy notes,” says Trevisan-Hunter. “Speyside whisky has this characteristic of fruitiness that’s quite distinct: The lightest have notes of apple or pear. Then you go to the heavy end of the spectrum with whiskies like the Macallan and you get really rich, Christmassy fruits like plums, cherries, and currants. Islay whisky has a smoky, peaty flavour.”

Try lots of single malts from different whisky-producing Scottish regions to learn which you like best.

5. Older doesn’t necessarily mean better.

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By law, Scotch whisky has to be matured for a minimum of 3 years, but most are left for much longer. However, a cask of whisky peaks and troughs over time. “You’re not necessarily improving a whisky by leaving it!” says Trevisan-Hunter. “I once tried a 50-year-old single malt whisky, it was disgusting. It tasted like oak essence!”

6. Don’t be afraid to use a single malt in a cocktail…

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Using single malt in a cocktail used to be seen as sacrilegious, but things are changing. Trevisan-Hunter explains: “Recently, mixologists have invented cocktails that bring out the flavours and characteristics of each individual single malt and embellish those qualities to create a truly unique drink.”

Read on for a cocktail that blends Speyside single malt and thyme.

7. ... or in a hot toddy.

It's recently been proven that honey and lemon in hot water soothes sore throats just as well as many over-the-counter remedies, and adding whisky can be helpful too.

“It’s probably not medicinal in the technical sense," says Trevisan-Hunter. "But adding a dram will lift your spirits and the flavours work very well with the other ingredients.”


8. Serve neat whisky in a Glencairn glass.

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Trevisan-Hunter explains: “The glass we use was developed by Glencairn crystal. All the master blenders got together to work out what would be the best glass shape for whisky and this was the result. The wider base allows you to swirl the whisky and see the colours, plus it’s tapered to hold in the aromas.”

If you don’t have one, any tulip-shaped glass will do the same job.

10. Hold it up to the light to check its colour.

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You can tell how long whisky was matured for – and in what way – based on the colour. It's not a hard rule, but whisky aged in sherry barrels will probably be darker, and whisky aged in bourbon barrels will be lighter.

11. Swirl the whisky around your glass.

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Trevisan-Hunter explains: “This helps you work out the body weight: After you’ve swirled it you’ll see that the droplets either run down the side very quickly, or trickle slowly and thickly. This helps you tell how light or rich the whisky is before tasting."

Long “legs” mean the whisky has a good alcohol content and texture.


12. "Nose" the whisky before tasting it.

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“The nose is almost more important than your mouth when tasting," says Trevisan-Hunter. "There’s actually a plate at the back of your nose called the olfactory epithelium that is involved in producing taste as well as smell, so you can tell a lot about the various flavours just from breathing in the whisky vapour.”

13. Add a splash of water.

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"Adding water is a great idea as it releases the maximum amount of flavour from the whisky," says Trevisan-Hunter. "Master blenders will usually dilute the whisky to around 23% alcohol, the strength proven to release the most aroma. However, even two drops of water will help you pick up all of the lovely little nuances."

14. You can add soda instead of still water.

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Diluting whisky with fizzy water will still release the same aromas as well as helping to create a lighter drink, though whisky and soda is a bit of an acquired taste. Ginger beer is a more palatable option, but it does change the flavour.

15. You can add ice if you really want to, but be aware you’ll be numbing your taste buds.

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“Ice will definitely lessen the quality and quantity of flavours and aromas that you can pick up,” says Trevisan-Hunter. “But it has its place in terms of creating a drink that’s more refreshing. If you’re somewhere hot (which isn’t going to happen in this country this summer!) you’ll naturally want to drink whisky on the rocks.”


16. Or, for extra refreshment, try a classic Rusty Nail.

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You will need: Ice, 50ml of whisky (blended or single malt), 25ml of Drambuie, orange twist to garnish.


1. Fill glass with ice cubes.

2. Prepare orange twist.

3. Fill cocktail shaker with ice.

4. Pour in whisky and Drambuie – stir gently.

5. Strain through a fine mesh sieve into the glass.

6. Squeeze orange oil from twist over drink and rub it round rim of glass.

7. Place twist in drink.

17. Alternatively, pretend you're in Mad Men with this Scottish version of an Old Fashioned.

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You will need: 50ml blended Scotch whisky, a dash of Angostura bitters, a sugar cube, a cherry, and a slice of orange.


1. Place a sugar cube in a glass and add a dash of Angostura bitters.

2. Muddle until dissolved.

3. Fill the glass with cubed ice.

4. Pour the whisky over the ice, bitters, and sugar.

5. Garnish with a cherry and an orange slice.

18. Or for something really special, try a Thyme Well Spent.

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You will need: Ice, a sprig of fresh thyme, a disc of lemon peel, thyme-infused sugar syrup (recipe here), three dashes of rhubarb bitters, 75ml Ben Riach single malt whisky (or any other Speyside malt).


1. Prepare a small disc of lemon peel plus a strip for garnish.

2. Add lemon peel disc, bitters, and syrup to mixing glass.

3. Muddle gently to release oils from lemon.

4. Add whisky to mixing glass.

5. Fill tumbler and mixing glass with cubed ice.

6. Stir mixing glass for 30-40 seconds.

7. Strain into tumbler.

8. Garnish with thyme sprig and twisted lemon peel strip.