Providing hundreds of detailed tasting notes and an exploration of the story of whiskey told through in-depth distillery entries, Whiskey Opus helps seasoned connoisseurs in their quest to discover the world's best whiskies.
Every whiskey style from single malt to poteen is represented, along with tips and tricks for recognizing and appreciating each one.
With great whiskeys being produced all over the world, Whiskey Opus covers a range of distilleries, from Banffshire to Bangalore, Scotland to Spain, and Kentucky to Japan — providing whiskey lovers with everything they need to know to fully appreciate their favorite spirit.
A conversation with Gavin D. Smith,
Scotch expert and co-author of
When did your love of whiskeys begin?
When I was in my late teens, experimenting with the few single-malts that were to be found in bars during visits to Scotland.
What tasting tips would you offer first-time tasters to help them distinguish if what they have is a well-made whiskey versus an inexpensive knock-off?
Always when sampling whiskey start by nosing it in a specialist tasting glass or small white wine glass, then sip it gently, holding it in your mouth for few seconds and letting it coat all parts of your mouth before swallowing. If a whiskey is harsh or overly woody or even just not very much of anything, then the chances are it is not of high quality. However, there is always a chance that it is actually very old and potentially a collector's item and therefore anything but inexpensive. This doesn't necessarily mean the liquid is good to drink!
What whiskey would you recommend for use in mixed cocktails versus drinking straight? Is there anything that's better one way or the other?
I would recommend a good quality blend for cocktails. Don't be fooled into thinking that the cheapest whiskey you can buy will do. Its harshness will force its way through the other ingredients and spoil the cocktail.
What have been the most creative methods or ingredients for making whiskey that you've tried? Were they successful?
In terms of Scotch single malts, probably the use of heavily roasted chocolate malt and various cask types for maturation in Glenmorangie Signet, which worked very well indeed. I've not experimented so widely with US craft whiskeys, but I guess Chip Tate's Texas-made Balcones Rumble, distilled from Texas Wildflower Honey, Mission Figs, Turbinado Sugar and Texas Hill Country Spring Water would be up there!
In your opinion, which distilleries have been the most consistent over an extended period of time? Are there any new distilleries that have impressed you?
I would include Highland Park and Glenfarclas, which produce two classic single-malts of consistently high quality. Kilchoman on Islay is a ‘young' distillery that has impressed me.
Folks can be adamant in their whiskey tastes. Do different generations or demographics have their own specific whiskey preferences, or are tastes mostly personal?
I think tastes are mostly personal. Received wisdom is that the big, peaty Islay like Ardbeg and Laphroaig are not beginner's whiskies or women's whiskies, But I know women who have never been interested in whiskey and after one sip of Ardbeg are hooked. Previous generations of UK drinkers tended to be blended Scotch drinkers simply because single malts were hard to find. I do think that there is always a tendency for young drinkers to reject what their parents liked, but we now have a situation where the parents of drinkers in their 20s were white spirits drinkers, so Scotch – and Bourbon – can be 'cool' again with younger consumers!
There are several variables that can affect the taste of whiskey. Which do you think is the most important?
Unquestionably maturation. You can make the best new spirit in the world, but if you don't mature it for long enough in decent casks then you won't get good whiskey.
Do you have a favorite whiskey-food pairing?
Talisker and haggis or any full-bodied, well-aged sherry cask-matured malt like The Macallan or The Dalmore with a hand-rolled cigar (well, cigars are almost food!)
Finally, if you could only drink one whiskey for the rest of your life, which would you choose?
Glenfarclas. Great sherried Speyside single malt whiskey and sold at a very fair price. Also, a family-owned distillery, and I like to support the few remaining ones left in Scotland!