you advocate drinking alcohol?
Yes. It would be silly to assume a whisky and cigar
club would do otherwise. On the other hand we should
point out that we would never advocate that you should
drink our whisky. Drink your own stuff and suffer
your own consequences.
drinking alcohol dangerous to my health?
Yes. As almost any other thing worthwhile doing.
Don't do it. And if you feel you are getting mixed
signals here it's because either you are too young, too
stupid, or both.
is the correct temperature for drinking whisky?
Well, there are two ways of answering that. First of
all, there is no outside temperature that is right for
whisky. No matter if summer or winter, you should always
Then, of course, there is the matter of what temperature
the whisky should be served at. Again, the answer is
simple: Room temperature (18-22°C). A good whisky
below) is never served chilled or cold. Low temperatures
deaden your taste buds. If you drink your whisky cold,
you may as well be drinking turpentine.
- Why do
some people put ice in their whisky?
Because they are either drinking bad whisky, or they
are idiots. Probably both, because no one in their right
mind would ever think of drinking bad whisky. If you
order a whisky "on the rocks" this had better indicate to
the waiter where you want to sit.
You may, however, drink american burbon whisky with ice.
The question remains, however, if this invalidates
anything of the above.
do some people put water in their whisky?
Because some whiskies (see "Cask
Strength", below) come in
such a strength that it's taste is still "closed". Adding
water can "open up" the taste. This only applies to good
whiskies. Bad whiskies are always closed, and you should
drink the water instead.
much water should I put in my whisky?
Many experienced whisky lovers experiment with the
taste of a good whisky by successively adding drop after
drop of water until the taste is just right. Note that
adding water to whisky is always done by drops. If you
see someone adding a large quantity of water to their
whisky, you should hope that he/she is drinking something
else. You can also be sure that this person is not a
member of the Club of Zurich.
kind of glass should I be using?
whisky is not just a matter of gulping down an
alcohol-infused liquid. Part of drinking whisky is seeing
the amber liqud in the glass, and an even larger part is
sampling it's exquisite vapours. For the latter there are
special glasses available that are shaped to allow the
whisky to develop it's optimal taste. A glass that works
very well is depicted on the right.
Never use a tumbler. Unless, of course, you want to drink
your whisky with ice.
- What is
a "Blend" or "Blended Whisky"?
Creating the taste for a whisky is a complex task. Like
many Bordeaux wines, whiskies are created by mixing the
contents of different whisky (aged) barrels, and
regularly also by using whiskies from different
distilleries. This is done to ensure that a whisky always
has the same taste. A "Blend" is a whisky that is an
assemblage of whiskies from different distilleries.
A blend's hallmark is that a particular age (e.g. "20
years old") always tastes the same, no matter when it was
- What is
a "Malt" whisky?
Whiskies can be produced from a great variety of
grains. A "Malt" whisky is a whisky that was produced
with malt made from barley only.
is a "Single Malt"?
A single malt (as opposed to a blended malt) is a
malt whisky made from whisky from only one
It does not, however, mean that this whisky comes from a
single cask, or that all the whisky in the bottle is of
the same age.
A single malt will taste different for each year it was
is a "Single Cask"?
Usually a single malt is made from different casks of
whisky in order to average their slightly differing
tastes. Not so a "single cask". This whisky comes only
from a single cask (which is usually identified on the
A whisky from one cask may very well taste different from
a whisky from another cask of that same year.
does "Cask Strength" mean?
Before being bottled, a whisky is usually watered
down to around 40-46%vol of alcohol. This is done to open
up it's taste and make it more accessible to the general
public, since the distillers know at which strength most
people prefer this whisky.
A cask strength whisky is filled straight from the cask,
without adding any water. Such a whisky can have anywhere
from 42 to well over 60%vol of alcohol.
- How old is a
Whisky that says "10 years old"?
Age in a whisky means the time it spent in a cask
(not bottle). Since a distillery mixes whiskies from
different casks and ages, not all whisky in a single
bottle is necessarily of the same age. A bottle that says
"X years old" means that the youngest whisky used for
this bottle is X years old. Thus, if a bottle claims that
the whisky is 10 years ols, it may also contain whisky
that has aged 12 years or even longer. Any bottle that
does not carry an age may contain very young whisky (e.g.
5 or 7 years old - legally, a whisky must age for at
least three years). These young whiskies are a matter of
taste, and we have tried, and liked, some undated
whiskies, while hated others.
does "Port Wood Finish" or "Doublewood" etc. mean?
One of the most important contributors to a whisky's
taste is the wood of the cask it ages in. Traditionally,
oak is used to make a cask. However, distilleries found
out that they could improve the "roundness" of a whiskey
when they used casks made from other wood, or casks that
where previously used for other products (Sherry, Brandy,
Burbon, Red Wine). Examples for whiskies that aged in
such a cask are "Bowmore Dusk" (Red Wine), "The Balvenie
PortWood", or "Lagavulin Double Matured". Sometimes a
whisky spends all its time in such a cask, sometimes it
first ages in an oak barrel, and is then transferred to
another one (Double-Wood, xxxWood finish, Double Matured
Whisky improve with age?
Yes and no.
No: Unlike wine, whisky does not improve after it
has been bottled. Therefore, a bottled 10-year-old whisky
does not become a 15-year-old after it spent 5 years in
your cellar. On the other hand, any un-opened whisky does
also not deteriorate after a certain time (opened bottles
may lose alcohol if not tended properly, and each time
you open it, the newly added oxygen may also affect it's
Yes: While aging in it's cask, whisky usually
improves in taste. A 20-year-old ususally tastes more
well defined, and much more rounded, than an 8-year-old.
However, with age the oak (or whatever wood was used)
becomes more prominent. This may not be to everyone's
- Is a
dark whisky a good whisky?
There is a common misconception that a darkly colored
whisky is also a good whisky. Traditionally, a whisky
that aged longer also had a darker complexion, and thus
people associated a dark tint with age and superior
quality. This is untrue today for a number of
- "Clever" businessmen have found
out that people believe this and now add darkener to
their whisky to cash in on this misconception.
Nowadays you can have a dark whisky that is only a few
years old and tastes terrible.
- Some of the best whiskies are
pale, even though they are old. Ardbeg, for example is
a naturally pale whisky. It's 10 year old whisky looks
like white wine, and when 30 years old it is still
lighter in color than the average (15 years old)
Therefore, a darker whisky of the
same brand may be better than a lighter, but only
may. Bowmore's "Darkest" is a good example. Even though
it is undoubtly a very good (and also young) whisky, it
is much darker than Bowmore's own 25-years-old - but
can't hold a candle in taste against it's older
Whisky & Culture
Fermenting and distilling sugar (or products that
contain sugar, such as grain, grapes, and herbs) has been
a tradition in Europe for over 1000 years. Earliest
reports of whisky being produced are from Ireland, around
the early 1000s. About 500 years later is the first
report of Scottish whisky production (or what then was
regarded as whisky: a malt-based spirit)
It is assumed the the name "Whisky" is derived from the
Gaelic "uisge beatha", which means "Spirited Water" or
"Water of Life"
This may also be the origin of the proverb "While the
Irish invented whisky, the scots made it drinkable".
is whisky? How is it produced?
Whisky is a spirit made by distilling fermented
grain. Traditionally, whisky is produced the following
- Barley is put into water for a
few days. This starts the process germinating, turning
starch into sugar.
- The Barley is taken out of the
water and spread on a surface (sometimes called
"malting floor"). The grain continues to germinate. To
facilitate the process, it it regularly
- After another few days, the
germinating process it terminated by drying the
barley. Traditionally used for this purpose is a peat
fire, which (more precisely: it's smoke) also
contributes to the taste. The dried germinated grain
is called "Malt".
- Malt is ground and then mixed
with hot water, creating a sugar-rich liquid called
"wort". The liquid is drawn off, with the solid
- Wort is mixed with yeast and
left to ferment for a few days, turning sugar into
- After fermenting, the wort is
distilled (once, twice or sometimes even three times),
creating the spirit.
- The spirit is put into a cask
and ages there for anywhere between 3 (legal minimum)
and 40 or more years.
is the difference between Scotch, Whisky, Whiskey and
- "Scotch" is simply a malt
whisky made in Scotland - no other whisky may call
- Whisky is the english version -
usually made from barley
- Whiskey is the american version
- usually made from corn
- Burbon is Whiskey (american
corn whisky) which has matured in casks freshly made
from oak (these casks - not the whiskey - are later
used to produce good scotchs).
- What is so
special about Islay whiskies?
There simply is no better whisky. We don't know why.
Perhaps it's the climate (ugly). Perhaps the water (not
very clean). Perhaps the peat used in the fires to dry
the malt (strong and agressive). Maybe even the closeness
of the sea. But the fact remains that all of us prefer a
"stong, smoky, frank, and above all uncultured Ardbeg
over those candy-assed Highland or children's-swill
Lowlanders". There is a reason that the best whiskies of
all come from here: Black Bowmore, 1974 Ardbeg, 1968 Port
Ellen. There can only be one, and it's Islay.