There’s nothing nicer on a warm summer night than relaxing with a glass of a favorite whiskey. When I was provided with six top American and Japanese whiskeys to try I jumped at the opportunity. These six offered a range in terms of taste, color and price that means there is something to suit everyone.
How to drink whiskey
One of the oldest debates is about how to drink whiskey and there’s no right or wrong answer, only what you prefer. I like to use a fine glass because anything other than glass can taint the whiskey but if you don’t want your best crystal outside for a party or when friends come around, any glass will do.
Most whiskey tasting experts say to try a whiskey neat the first time to get the full effect of the flavor although adding a little water can take away the punch of the alcohol just a little without affecting the taste. Big ice cubes are great for those evenings sitting in the garden as they take longer to melt.
Once you have tried the whiskey, you can get adventurous. Cocktails are a brilliant idea for a party, great fun to make and can really accent the flavors of the whiskey. Classics include the Manhattan and the Old Fashioned but there are hundreds to try.
Both the regular and extra rare (XR) whiskeys from Crown Royal Canadian Whiskey are created in the renowned Gimli Distillery – the only Coffey still operated in Canada. The XR uses a blend of dried fruits and honey that sits perfectly alongside the spicy Canadian rye and finishes with a taste of raisins, cocoa and brown sugar.
The deluxe has a brighter, fruitier taste with a hint of sweet oak and apple juice. To balance the flavors are a little grapefruit, roasted almonds, even a little light almond milk and bourbon notes all alongside the grain. The taste reminded me a little of fino-sherry with the apple and there is also a spiciness to the flavor.
The George Dickel Rye Whiskey is a favorite to use for cocktails such as a Manhattan or an Old Fashioned but I like to drink it just as it is. This is the only rye finished in a chilled charcoal-mellowed style and this results in a very distinct flavor. It also uses 95% rye and 5% malted barley. The flavor has a grassy note with some nuttiness and a gentle caramel corn flavor. It is a very smooth whiskey with some fruity notes, most particularly cherry, and there’s just a bit of fire as the drink goes down.
This is a Japanese whiskey that lives up to its name, offered a harmonious, well balanced flavor. It is made with malt whiskies from the Yamazaki and Hakushu distilleries and grain whiskey from the distillery in Chita. It travels through five different barrels including American white oak and Mizunara oak casks to create an elegant tasting drink with flavors of honey, orange and light oak as well as a few herbaceous notes.
This Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey from I.W. Harper uses a mash of 73% corn, 18% rye and 9% barley and is aged for at least four years in new American oak barrels in the Stitzel-Weller distillery. This produces a whiskey with aromas of butterscotch, shortbread, walnuts and vanilla while the palate is almonds and fruitcake. It is finished with caramel, chocolate and lumber.
The Bulleit Bourbon is distilled in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, uses a mash of 68% corn, 28% rye and 4% malted barley and is a little stronger than the regular Bulleit bourbon. It has a subtle aroma of smoke and a smooth vanilla and cinnamon palate while the finish has touches of wood, vanilla and dried apricot without being too strong.
6. Japanese Suntory Whisky Toki
Another blended whisky from the Suntory portfolio, Suntory Toki is a blend of selected barrels but relies on Hakushu rather than Yamazaki as the primary malt. It is aged in American white oak and Spanish oak barrels and has fresh straw and vanilla notes with gentle grain hints. Once it settles there is a hint of coconut, tamarind, blanched almonds and mochi rice flour cakes. On the palate, it is a medium bodied with honeyed sweetness and just a little burn on the tongue.
A favorite Whiskey?
I’ll admit it was hard to pick a favorite from them as each had a different taste and unique flavors. I was pleasantly surprised at how well the Japanese whiskeys tasted as they have had a slightly unimpressive reputation previously. And there’s no beating a classic bourbon whiskey! But whatever you are looking for, be it an evening tipple for a summers night or a cocktail ingredient for a party, these drinks are all worth considering.