The silly season is usually associated with Summery wines and colourful cocktails. But it turns out there’s another way to get into the spirit (pun intended!) this year.
With 37% of US whisky drinkers female – and a similar trend in Australia – sipping on a Scotch is no longer a status symbol reserved for men in suits sinking into leather lounges. However, if you’ve ever felt a little overwhelmed with all the options, or are just interested in expanding your choices at the bar, then our guide to whisky is here to explain everything you need to know to get the celebrations started.
The first rule in your guide to whisky
According to Lachie Beange, ambassador for Australian whisky brand Starward (recently recognised as the Most Awarded Distillery of the Year at the 2022 San Francisco World Spirits Competition), when it comes to whisky don’t be afraid to be adventurous. “The whisky world is so diverse and interesting, there is always a new experience to be had in the glass in front of you. Embrace curiosity. Ask questions, read the label, have a chat with the person next to you, and most importantly of all, enjoy yourself.”
Are whisky, scotch & bourbon the same thing? (And what makes a good one)
So, what is whisky anyway? Whisky is an umbrella term, to cover a range of spirits that have been fermented from a grain such as barley or corn and distilled and aged in wood. The type of grain used will then define the whisky. For example, malted barley being the sole ingredient in Single Malt Whisky. Those made using traditional whisky-making methods are often referred to as old-world whisky, while distilleries and regions that specialise in producing whiskies in unconventional ways are called new-world. This is then typically broken down into regions based on where the whisky has been made – such as Scotch for Scotland, Japanese Whisky, Australian Whisky, and American whisky (with the most common examples being bourbon).
As for what makes a good one whisky? “I always look for authenticity,” says Lachie. “When a distillery can honestly say why they use a particular method and why they chose to start making whisky in that place, I can be sure they have taken every care to create a fantastic spirit that truly speaks to a sense of place. Starward, for example, work closely with local barley growers for our grain and have a fantastic relationship with our winery partners to source only the best red wine barrels.”
How to get the most from your drink
According to Lachie’s guide to whisky, as long as you’re drinking responsibly, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to getting the most from your drink and you should drink whisky in the way that you enjoy it most.
While a drop or two of water can certainly open new avenues of flavours in a whisky, an ice cube can also dramatically change the experience. “But, if you most enjoy drinking whisky mixed with soda, then I would applaud you for drinking it that way, just as I would for someone who enjoys whisky on the rocks,” says Lachie.
As for the best drinking vessels? “A rocks glass, a champagne flute, a wine glass, or a specialised whisky glass are all suitable, and although there is no need to swish whisky in the glass, it won’t hurt the spirit at all,” he adds.
Finally, if you’re not sure whether to sip your Scotch or take a shot, Lachie suggests slowly sipping the whisky as it allows you to consider the flavours and craftsmanship in the glass in front of you. “For any whisky, I like to remember that a team of people have taken years to create the spirit, care for the barrels, and bottle a product that they are proud to put their name on.”
The best food and whisky pairings
Whisky and food are a match made in heaven. According to Lachie, lighter whiskies like Starward’s Two-Fold pair well with seafood dishes like prawn paella or a creamy mussel chowder, whereas robust and full-bodied whiskies the red-wine-barrel-matured Nova is perfect when matched with cured meats, or cheeses.
If you’re keen to experiment with a whisky-based cocktail, then Lachie’s tip is to try a Starward Spritz. Made with 30ml Two-Fold Whisky, 30ml Rose Vermouth and 90ml Grapefruit Soda poured together over a wine glass, before being garnished with a spring of mint and wedge of grapefruit, it really will bring new meaning to getting into the spirit of the season!