Is it Whiskey with an ‘e’? or Whisky without? Well actually, the ‘e’ has a gaelic ancestry, so it’s usually associated with Scottish production. But then Japan are building warehouses which exactly mimics the weather conditions in Scotland year round, so is what they’re producing authentic?
Whisky (dropping the ‘e’ because this is Australia) is a spirit steeped in history. It wasn’t until as recently as the 80s in Australia that we moved away from blended varieties to start to grow a true appreciation for Single Malt. Perhaps a part of why Australia’s whisky history has been stunted is down to the fact that the flavours we experience largely through import are not as well rounded as they are in their place of origin. As it turns out, the majority of importers mix down their product in Australia below the traditional 46% alcohol content and up in order to lessen the hit taken on excise taxes. When you consider that 80% of the taste of a Whisky comes from the barrel it’s aged in, the idea that those flavours are somehow compromised is abhorrent to the legion of those who enjoy a nip neat.
All of this and more is a part of the Whisky education on offer at Hindmarsh hotel, The Joiners Arms. Co-owner Dan Noske has spent the last 18 months converting the old keg storage cellar beneath the hotel into an intimate old world Whisky Den, complete with his own private collection available for tasting in small groups. Dan is a passionate Whisky man, with a desire to make the drink accessible and appreciated regardless of the perceived barriers of the amber liquor. Provided with a beautiful tasting plate of harder cheeses (which pair better with Whisky than softer options), as soon as you enter down the steep stairwell, you forget the time of day outside.
The first tip when it comes to smelling Whisky is to have your mouth open slightly to lessen the burn through your nostrils from the alcohol content. The first sip will always burn, it doesn’t matter how often you drink, so it’s important to swill it around your mouth and get your whole palate used to alcohol content. The second sip will begin to reveal the flavours in your glass, and if it’s still overpowering just a couple of drops of water from a straw can soften and smoothen the flavours to your liking.
Rather than focus on the familiar, Nick has put together a selection from around the globe, touring the Netherlands, Sweden, Scotland, Australia and India, who also happen to be the greatest consumers of Whisky in the world. You can select the flavour profile of your choice, from fruity to petted and smoky numbers and try up to 6 bottles from Nick’s collection as part of your tasting.
Considering that each barrel of Whisky will taste different, you can never really tire of the variety of flavours on offer and each time you return, you’re bound to learn even more about the process of production and maturation as well as how to best appreciate your drink. With plans to expand tastings across Gin, Rum, Wine, French Champagne and Craft Beer in the future, this incredible little room has the potential to grow into a true Adelaide destination. The Joiner’s kitchen also has plans to tailor a specific menu towards tasting in the future, but already the Tea-Smoked Duck Breast offers a perfect accompaniment if a meal is in order.
For those building their own collection at home Dan shared a few fun Whisky facts that you can take from his Den to yours. Firstly, swilling whisky in the glass does nothing. It’s just fun. Secondly, a whisky will hit its peak around a week after you open it, when the flavors will have changed sufficiently to soften the alcohol hit. And lastly, Whisky doesn’t improve any further in a sealed bottle, so just drink what you have. But never leave a bottle open for over a year. The flavours will only continue deteriorate after that point.
For more information and to book your very own tasting, visit the Whiskey Den on The Joiners Arms Website.