Whisky — whether there’s an ‘e’ in the spelling or not — doesn’t lend itself to easy categorising. We assembled an array of expressions for the experienced palates of Mike Enright, Tim Philips, Cass Hill and Will Oxenham at Enright’s newly opened York Street bar, The Barber Shop.
The panel noted that there is a greater call for Japanese whiskies and other drams from around the world, but the big Scotch single malts are still often the first drop on punters’ minds. “Australian male whisky drinkers have still got that big swinging dick sort of attitude, where it’s the smokier the better,” said Philips. “It’s the Barossa shiraz effect, in whisky.”
So what does the panel look for in a whisky? For Philips, really it depends on the price point.
“I’m kind of still of the opinion that if it’s really expensive, I want to drink it on its own,” said Philips. “I want it to hold its own, on its own.”
“If it’s at that $40 to $60 mark I want to see if I can use it in cocktails,” he said.
The order of things, as always, affects how the spirits are perceived in the tasting. When the panel came across the second whisky in the lineup, the Teachers blended whisky, all of a sudden the first whisky grew more complex, bolder. It’s more proof that taste is not only subjective — but quite malleable too.
“Coming back to that first one, it’s like it changed completely,” said Philips.
The Redbreast confused the panel a little; there was some sweetness that Enright noticed but his overall impression was that it was quite dry, I really like this on the nose, it is quite fruity — pear and vanilla,” he said. These characters led the panel down the path of thinking it had a proportion of rye in the blend — like a rye, but not like a rye. At the end of the day it was the Bowmore that was the standout dram. Despite hailing from Islay it wasn’t an overpowering drop, with the smoke kept in check and a rounded and generous mouthfeel.