5@5 - Whisky aficionado Martin Daraz
September 27th, 2010
05:00 PM ET
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5@5 is a daily, food-related list from chefs, writers, political pundits, musicians, actors, and all manner of opinionated people from around the globe.

Martin Daraz is the brand ambassador of Highland Park Single Malt Scotch Whisky and fittingly enough, a native Scotsman. Throughout the year, Daraz travels across the United States teaching everyone from connoisseurs to novices, chefs to mixologists about nosing and tasting whiskies with the best of them.

Now, he's stopped by 5@5 to help all of us embrace our inner whisky aficionado. Wham dram, thank you, sir.

5 Ways to Make Yourself a Whisky Connoisseur: Martin Daraz

1. Take your time before drinking
"Nose the dram (Editor's Note: a dram is the traditional measure of whisky) for at least ten seconds, it can take this long to nose past the alcohol and pick up the sweeter notes. Take a wee sip and chew the spirit slowly for at least five seconds then savor the aftertaste. This approach will reveal far more of the distillers’ intention than just slamming it down. At Highland Park Distillery, we age our lightly peated single malt whisky in Spanish Sherry Oak casks for its entire life. The unique layers of spice and sweetness reveal themselves slowly with greater intensity over time."

2. You can totally add water
"It opens up the dram on the nose and reduces some of the astringency in the mouth feel. Do yourself a favor and sip it neat first to ensure you understand what the whisky maker intended the taste to be. Ice is fine too but bear in mind it will freeze the fats in the liquid that give the spirit flavor, effectively cutting the sensation in half."

3. Try as many whiskies as you can - Scotch, American, Irish, Canadian, Japanese and even Welsh
"Most whiskies are made fairly simply using either malted barley or other grains. What we all have in common is our use of casks to mature the spirit. In Scotch, this accounts for between 60 and 80 percent of the overall flavor, color and texture of the final whisky. Think of the whiskies you sample like music - different styles to suit the mood. You need to know from experience whether you want smooth jazz or punk. No dram is wasted when you are teaching your taste buds some context.

4. Check out a whisky club or event
"Whisky is a social thing, most major cities have at least one awesome brown spirit bar and the United States probably has more whisky events per calendar year than anywhere else - so get out there. Malt Advocate’s Whisky Fest, the Scotch Malt Whisky Society and the Whisky Guild of America all have events scheduled nationwide, these are a great way to boost your whisky knowledge."

5. Enjoy yourself
"[It] seems obvious but given how misunderstood whiskies can be, it is worth repeating. Beware anyone who is a self-proclaimed expert, only you know what works for you - trust that."

How do you take your whisky down? In a cocktail, neat, on the rocks? Spill it in the comments.

Is there someone you'd like to see in the hot seat? Let us know in the comments below and if we agree, we'll do our best to chase 'em down.

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soundoff (231 Responses)
  1. Randy in Minnesota

    Never being a "Scotch" guy, I never-the-less bought my father-in-law an 18-year old bottle of Highland Park after he helped me with more than a few projects around my house and presented it at a family dinner party.

    With no little ceremony he promptly opened the bottle and poured us both a dram. Whereas he had a look of pure joy and anticipation as he read off the various flavors that the bottle toted as part of the unique bouquet, I wore a grimmace mentally preparing myself for napalm in a glass.

    I took a small sip and was amazed that I actually could taste the variety of flavors as the Scotch turned from smooth liquid to vapor on my tongue. I was actually sad a year later when we polished off the last of the bottle together after nearly squashing my cabin with a particularly large tree we cut down.

    I have to say that I have now sampled many brands of Scotch, but Highland Park is still my favorite and I personally thank them for making my first foray into drinking Scotch such a wonderfully memorable occasion.

    January 9, 2013 at 2:16 pm | Reply
  2. Just a Guy

    Having spent over 40 years sampling bourbons, tennessee whiskys and corn whiskys (I currently have about 75 bottles of various brands), the best advice that I can give to a novice is to simply find a whisky that you like and forget all the nonsense about "nosing the dram" (translation: smell that stuff" and "and chewing a wee sip" (translation: swish a litle bit in your mouth) and forget brand names and high prices. Some of my favorites are lower end "expressions" (translation: the bottle you are holding). In general , Corn whiskys are a waste of time, don't bother they all taste like bad mouthwash, the lower the alchol content, the smoother the taste (why spend $60 bucks on a bottle of bookers when all you can taste in the first sip is the alcohol and you can't taste anything after that because your taste buds are stunned. If you're mixing, use a rye whisky or a bourbon with high rye content like maker's, basil haydens or bulliet (and remember, what you mix it in contributes more to the taste then the whisky. A bourbon and pepsi tastes completely different from a bourbon and coke.) If your sipping, Elilgh Craig (12 year) is as good as anything at two or three times the price.

    January 9, 2013 at 1:10 pm | Reply
  3. Mark

    Pappy Van Winkle - chilled ( not bruised ) no ice, no water!

    January 8, 2013 at 1:50 pm | Reply
  4. JPofNorway

    I highly recommend (single malt – the real stuff):
    Aberlour 18yr
    Glenfarclas 15 + 21 + 30yr
    The Balvenie 17 yr (sherry oak)
    For those who are looking for a real treat, try the Glendronach 15yr...amazing!!

    Slàinte mhath (cheers)

    September 29, 2010 at 10:52 am | Reply
  5. RickR

    Big single malt fan, but one of the best and most complex ones I've had recently was Ardbeg's "Rollercoaster", an expression put together from 1 cask each from the last 10 years prior to bottling in varying percentages. About the only whisky I've had which seems to mutate and differ with each sip- one smoky and briny, the next sweet and smooth, etc. I take all my whiskies neat nowadays with a little water if needed. And of course, use a Riedel single malt glass or equivalent.

    September 29, 2010 at 7:47 am | Reply
  6. BrotherBob

    So, so,so,so, so,so.....................................many great ones to choose from.but JB straight up always does the trick.

    September 29, 2010 at 7:27 am | Reply
  7. Septemberfive

    So great to see others who truly know what’s to love about whisky!
    I’ve visited Scotland twice (and will again!) so it’s hard to separate the lusciousness of scotch from my liking for the country, culture, and people. Grand folk, those Scots!
    The whiskies of the western isles have my heart, even tho I was introduced to the golden nectar on a 25 YO Macallan. Lagavulin 16 can not be topped for fine flavor for the dollar. A mature Laphroiag is tough to top.
    With reviewer Michael Jackson now in whisky heaven, who do people rely on for scotch reviews? Slainte!

    September 28, 2010 at 9:01 pm | Reply
  8. eRed

    OK, Being reared up in good ol KY, having an Irish Gram who believed all childhood ailments could be cured with whiskey (properly pronounced bu-bon) and local honey, AND being a bona-fide country musician, I consider myself not only an expert, but a professional on this topic. My take on this whole article is that it is horses$*% (another thing we know about in KY). And here is why (you can hate the player, but don't hate the game ;) )

    1. All whiskey is bourbon, not the other way around. I know many of you will talk to me about history and facts and dates and such, but that is really just the part of the conspiracy. We invented both corn and corn squeezing here in Eddyville, KY. Thems the truth.

    2. Only children drink bourbon from a glass (mixed with honey as medicine) Adults drink the proper way – from the bottle.

    3. The only acceptable mix for bourbon is ice, mint, and soda water (maybe a dash of bitters if you a bold and daring), and this is acceptable ONLY on derby day.

    4. If you complain that the tastes get mixed up and confused when you drink fast as opposed to sipping, then you are not taking big enough drinks. Don't swish it around in your mouth. Taking three large gulps from the bottle aerates and mixes when you stop to take a breath.

    5. Never choose bourbon for taste. Like wine, you should always choose for mood and function. For example:
    Early Times – supper bourbon, cheap, take with food or your hiney will regret it the next day
    Makers Mart – Staple of life, elixer of good health and mental functioning – take dailyas needed, double on Sunday
    Old Grandad – Friday night bourbon
    Wild Turkey 101 – Saturday night bourbon

    6. The proper temperature for drinking bourbon is whatever the temperature is behind the seat of your truck.

    I'm sorry for shattering the propaganda, but the truth will set you free. It may however land you in jail, but this is not just some beverage, bourbon is a lifestyle.

    September 28, 2010 at 6:14 pm | Reply
  9. Matthew

    Wild Turkey Rare Breed + Ice + Cohiba = Life is Good

    September 28, 2010 at 5:56 pm | Reply
  10. samueltx

    neat, or with just a bit of water

    September 28, 2010 at 4:21 pm | Reply
  11. @1meanofficer

    the last two are cigars***

    September 28, 2010 at 3:21 pm | Reply
  12. @1meanofficer

    Woodford Reserve, Basil Hayden, Bookers, Bakers, Cohiba, Nub, are my favorites.

    September 28, 2010 at 3:19 pm | Reply
  13. chris e

    I certainly prefer bourbon over scotch; I akso like Eagle Rare, but my favorite is Four Roses Small Batch- really smooth, almost silky

    September 28, 2010 at 2:45 pm | Reply
  14. KJO

    Great for the money: Balvenie Doublewood; For treating myself: Glenlivet 21 Yr Archive; A touch of water to help it open up.

    September 28, 2010 at 2:19 pm | Reply
  15. Irish Brawler

    Shots of Jameson, I ain't no girl – no time to sip, just wanna get liquored up on some good whiskey and get in some fights

    September 28, 2010 at 2:00 pm | Reply
  16. Jeff

    I'm a Wild Turkey 101 man when I'm celebrating but for casual times Ezra Brooks is my choice.

    September 28, 2010 at 1:32 pm | Reply
  17. TRH

    Oh and a little water, no ice, no mixers. What's the point otherwise? If I just want alchohol in a drink I'll pick up a inexpensive vodka. But drinking Scotch is for the flavors.

    September 28, 2010 at 1:19 pm | Reply
  18. TRH

    I'm not a bourbon fan, nor do I care for most blends. I appreciate highland single malts the most, although sometimes it's just that, an appreciation more than a real taste for the flavours.

    For just pure drinking enjoyment I've really found Aberfeldy to be my scotch of choice. Relatively easy on my wallet too.

    September 28, 2010 at 1:18 pm | Reply
  19. woofron

    Definitely Bookers. My current bottle is 127.9 proof. Fabulous. Just a tiny ice cube...

    September 28, 2010 at 1:14 pm | Reply
  20. Keith

    The Dalmore, single malt or if you can find it, their Cigar Malt and a good cigar

    September 28, 2010 at 1:01 pm | Reply
  21. Otis

    Any single malt filled up with Coca Cola, a big greasy cheese burger & fries.

    September 28, 2010 at 12:56 pm | Reply
    • Guest

      "God Bless America", I guess...

      Let us pray...

      September 28, 2010 at 2:15 pm | Reply
  22. LMgreen

    Jack Daniel's Single Barrel with 2 cubes of ice! Toasted oak notes with caramel and vanilla swirling around in that amber liquid makes for a great toddy!

    September 28, 2010 at 11:56 am | Reply
  23. Marocs Chavelas

    Booker's if by FAR the best bourbon ever, higher alchohol content is a bonus. Maker's Mark if i'm on a budget. You can't go wrong with eithe one. Any other booker's fans out there????!!!

    September 28, 2010 at 11:06 am | Reply
  24. Henry

    any one else out there a passionate famous grouse drinker?

    September 28, 2010 at 10:31 am | Reply
    • Guest

      Lessee here... I think that the best value is to be had in their twelve year old vatted malt. The Grouse Black just doesn't do it for me considering my admitted Islay snobbery! Have drank a bottle of their 18 – for the money, would have much preferred the Glenfiddich 18 for two dollars more. Have tried the Grouse 30 & was expecting, perhaps, too much. Was let down a bit. I just can't do regular Grouse, sorry. The Twelve, though is wonderful. It ranks W/ Johnny Black for quality vs cost (high praise, by the way).

      September 28, 2010 at 2:14 pm | Reply
  25. Mike

    I highly recommend the following single malt scotch whisky:
    The Macallan 18 (Sherry Oak); Glenrothes 1978; Highland Park 18; Glenfarclas 21; Mortlach 16; Balvenie 17 (Sherry Oak).
    Nose them neat, add a touch of still water (or a cube) to open the dram's bouquet, and enjoy for any occasion!

    September 28, 2010 at 9:49 am | Reply
    • Guest

      Wonderful choices – all. I still not have opened my bottle of Balvenie's 17 "Sherry Oak."

      September 28, 2010 at 2:08 pm | Reply
      • Mike

        Guest,

        The Glenrothes 1978 is a recent acquisition...the staff at Berry Brothers & Rudd (London) were kind enough to break seal on a bottle of the 1978 last summer to sample a full-dram, and it has been well worth the investment (albeit expensive). More reasonably priced, but also worthy of note, is a bottle of the Glenrothes 1991.

        Sláinte!

        September 28, 2010 at 4:34 pm | Reply
  26. MM girl

    Maker's Mark, made at a tiny little distillery in rural Kentucky.... if you have ever toured that place you would understand the peacefullness of sipping makers on the rocks. Do a little research on this bourbon and you will appreciate the quality and taste even more! Love it!

    September 28, 2010 at 9:30 am | Reply
  27. HoserChick

    Another single-malt loving woman here. Oban is my favourite; Dalwhinnie and Lagavulin are additional favourites. I celebrated the completion of my doctorate with the Macallan 25 year old.
    @ the person wondering about Canadian single malts–I know of only one, Glen Breton, produced in Nova Scotia. Haven't tried it yet...

    September 28, 2010 at 9:29 am | Reply
  28. mike1954

    Like Rande I've tried most of the brands mentioned and I have to say Auchentoshen is my favorite foreign single malt. Stranahan's is one of a growing number of excellent American-made whiskys I like along with Tuthilltown Spirit's Baby Bourbon. But it doesn't get any better on a cold, Vermont winter night than a splash of Parker's Golden Anniversary, neat, a PG, and Ella singng in the background while sitting and watching the snow come down out the living room window. C'mon, snow!! There are probably better ways to spend an evening, but I suspect they're all either illegal, immoral, or fattening.

    September 28, 2010 at 9:24 am | Reply
  29. Jamesy

    I've got a question for this learned group: Is there such a thing as a single malt (not a blend) Canadian? Everything I've ever taken note of is always a Canadian blend. What's the deal with that?

    September 28, 2010 at 9:08 am | Reply
    • mike1954

      Glen Breton Rare?
      http://www.glenoradistillery.com/glenbreton.htm

      September 28, 2010 at 9:29 am | Reply
      • Guest

        Well, to be precise, Glen Breton from Capre Breton's Glenora distillery is producing it's version of a scotch whisky; ie barley is used. Naturally they cannot lable it 'scotch' due to it being produced in Nova Scotia as opposed to old Scotia...! Anyway, as regards rye whiskey, I have seen more & more versions of it that claim to be 'single-grain', 'small-batch', etc. Seems like they are trying to get in on scotch's resurgence in the market. But I could be wrong.

        September 28, 2010 at 2:06 pm | Reply
  30. Grain of Salt

    Oh yeah. Half a tumbler of Wild Turkey with some Coke Zero and ice. Throw in some chocolate cake, a Hustler and Monday night RAW, and we're talking!

    September 28, 2010 at 9:03 am | Reply
  31. Rosh

    Please listen everybody, your drinks of choice are great however no one mentioned Pendleton Whiskey, the smoothest canadian blend distilled in Hood River, OR. And btw $25 for a bottle. I will not touch another whiskey again, unless I splurge for a bottle Mcallan

    September 28, 2010 at 7:51 am | Reply
  32. Rande

    I've probably tried 70% of what is mentioned here. Enjoyed most. But I always come back to Jim Beam with a splash of water.

    September 28, 2010 at 3:12 am | Reply
  33. Jamesy

    Well, if you're talking Irish, Tyrconnell is the way to go. Pure pot still at it's finest!

    September 28, 2010 at 1:03 am | Reply
    • Jamesy

      Oops...its finest! Call off the grammar nazis...I minored in English and know better.

      September 28, 2010 at 1:05 am | Reply
  34. Lush Life

    Johnny Red is what I ask for; Black is smoother but doesn't seem to have as much flavor. The first time I tried Laphroaig, I was in love, but I'm not in that tax bracket to be buying it often. That strong smoke flavor is alcohol's version of good barbecue. Recently tried Evan Williams: smoother than JD at about half the price. Many outstanding examples and good suggestions posted here, I will cheerfully check some of them out. Oh, yeah: like it neat. Ice only in the summer.

    September 27, 2010 at 11:20 pm | Reply
  35. David in Long Beach

    Laphroaig... when I can afford it. No ice... neat. Heaven!

    September 27, 2010 at 11:04 pm | Reply
  36. Ed from Madison

    Favorite Bourbon: Elijah Craig 18 year...mmmm
    Favorite Irish: Jameson Special reserve 12 year
    Favorite Scotch: The Glenlivet French Oak Reserve 15 year
    Neat, with a glass of water to the side.
    Had some ancient, pre-prohibition Waterfill & Frazier that was extremely good, not the stuff they make down in Mexico.

    September 27, 2010 at 11:00 pm | Reply
  37. Moves

    Two words; no shots. I just can't fathom people who do shots of whiskey. to each their own, I know, but whiskey is meant to be enjoyed. I prefer just a few ice cubes in mine and sipping the night away.

    September 27, 2010 at 10:56 pm | Reply
  38. Firey Buddha

    irish whiskey, neat please.

    BUT, i've recently become a certified mixologist (like, i know, right?) and developed a lovely new drink – a Perfectly Pink Manhattan. You can only dream of what I include....

    September 27, 2010 at 10:53 pm | Reply
  39. hayley

    Midleton Very Rare.... my fav.

    September 27, 2010 at 10:52 pm | Reply
  40. Stevie

    MaQintosh - straight, with a plastic bag over my head.

    September 27, 2010 at 10:46 pm | Reply
  41. Scott

    Scotch on the rocks

    September 27, 2010 at 10:41 pm | Reply
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