5 things to know before your next single malt

We answer the most frequently asked questions about single malts.

Single malt is one of the finest things to have happened to humanity. There’s no problem that cannot be solved over a dram of good single malt. But what is good single malt really? And what are the things you must know before you order one at the next big dinner? We answer the most frequently asked questions about single malts. Starting, of course, with the big one:

1. Should I add water to my single malt?
The world as we know it has two kinds of people—ones who believe that it is perfectly okay to add water to your single malt and ones who will turn up their noses to those who do. So the answer to the question is not as simple as you’d want it to be. The word whisky translates from the Scottish Gaelic as ‘water of life’ and your single malt whisky has water to begin with, and so a lot of purists will advise you against adding water. However, the Scottish themselves are known to add water to their whisky, and if you are one of those who likes to do as the Romans do in Rome, consider adding no more than a few drops that will open up the subtler flavours. Avoid using tap water since it has chlorine, which will interfere with the taste.

2. What glass should I use?
Tumblers are more popular in India, partly because they are easily available and because they seem more ‘manly’ than a tulip glass. A tulip glass however helps focus the aromas and is particularly helpful when you ‘nose’ your whisky. It also splashes the whisky over a larger area of your tongue. And it makes it difficult to add ice.

3. Can I add ice to my single malt?
No! Having ice with blended whisky is acceptable because it helps mask the blend’s harshness. But when you add it to a glass of single malt, it will hide most of the spirit’s aroma and pretty much kill its structure. The answer to this question, therefore, is pretty simple!

4. Can I keep an open bottle of single malt forever?
Well, forever is a long time. Unlike, let’s say, wine, which must be sipped off as soon as possible after it has been opened, a single malt won’t spoil as quickly. But it will change; just as it changes the moment you pour it out in a glass. So how long do you have before the spirit is as good as gone? That depends on how much liquid is contained in the bottle—the lesser the headspace (ie empty space between the whisky and the cap) the slower is the rate of change. So a half-empty bottle will be good for, let’s say, four to five months, but a bottle that is emptier will last for a shorter duration, more like a month. So if you are having single malt at a bar, don’t hesitate to ask to see the bottle.

5. What should be my first bottle?
Glenmorangie 10 receives the maximum votes here. It is a light sweet Scotch and is a very fine representative of the Speyside Single Malt. Though not a Scotch, Amrut’s Peated Indian Single Malt with its smoked barley nose is also a good idea.

Have more questions about single malts and scotches? Post them below and we’ll answer them for you.