It’s not just eyes and nose that constitute taste, but also ears, says Magandeep Singh

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Updated: February 24, 2019 12:56 AM

The secret to furthering your enjoyment of a beverage is to listen. Tune in and pick up all the little facts on file that you can about the product and you will instantly find your understanding of the product (if not also its taste) substantially upgraded.

Making things taste betterMaking things taste better

Ask any sommelier about how they taste any given beverage and he/she will waste no time in telling you about their senses, from the visual and olfactive to the tactile. They will lay out diagrams detailing the taste zones of the tongue even as they quibble over whether the whole concept is of scientific interest and worth or just pure malarkey. Some might even delve into the area of aftertaste: telling you about retrolfaction and Caudalie. But here, I won’t. Not because I don’t know of them (I do) or because they aren’t relevant (definitely are), but mainly due to my beliefs that apart from our organoleptic faculties, which help define our perception of a product, there is another very important element, which can enhance our enjoyment. And this entity has nothing to do with our eyes and nose. If anything, it is all about our ears.

The secret to furthering your enjoyment of a beverage is to listen. Tune in and pick up all the little facts on file that you can about the product and you will instantly find your understanding of the product (if not also its taste) substantially upgraded.

I recently got to experience this first-hand when Ewan Gunn, the global brand ambassador from Diageo, was in town and rounded up a few friends and me for a very intimate tasting of some of their single malts.

I say some because this beverage behemoth owns around 28 distilleries in Scotland and has a seemingly endless stream of single malt brands that span all styles of the spirit. We started with the White Walker, a lighthearted easy blend, which shows a lot of fruit berry-ness, and is best enjoyed chilled!

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Next, we moved on to the Glenkinchie. That’s ‘ch’ as in chair, not choir (don’t ask why because with Glenfiddich, the sound is ‘k’). Glenkinchie 12 is easily among the lightest single malts I have tried. It is floral and almond-buttery creamy, very subtle—all the traits of a typical Lowland malt. But in spite of this light nature, a dash of water (half of the spirit in my glass) further opened up the floral aromatics. This, in fact, became even more headily noticeable once we came back to the glass at the end of the exercise, which involved stronger peaty whiskies too. Otherwise put, don’t mistake the delicate nature of this single malt for weakness or frailty. Ewan further assured me that it does wonders besides a crusty creme brulée.

Moving on, we had a Singleton. There are three, in case you didn’t know. I didn’t. But I did remember that till some years back we used to have the Singleton of Glen Ord and now this here was Glendullan 12. The idea was that although the three are sourced from different distilleries, they all strive towards a somewhat similar tactile philosophy—rich; aromas from fruit to spice and toast; generous on the palate; lasting. No one said it, but we were all thinking ‘yummy!’
Next came the eagerly anticipated Talisker 10. The world of whisky drinkers comprises two types: those who love peaty whiskies and those who are yet to taste one.

Talisker, although peaty, is not overtly so. It shows strength and power, but also balance and restraint. The dram recalls notes of the open salty waters and surf, but not just because of its proximity to the sea. Whisky is more about the blend and ageing than merely the ingredients and provenance. This particular peated number lingers, and how! Being 10 years old imbues it with more spirited strength than the other two, but not intimidatingly so.

And this is when we went back to enjoy the floral nuances of the Glenkinchie once again.

So what made the tasting better than simply pouring and sniffing them out solo? The knowledge that Ewan imbued the session with. Which brings me back to my original point: it’s not just the eyes and the nose that constitute taste. The ears contribute too in their own special way.

So next time a brand ambassador is in town, block your calendars and get ready to enjoy with all your senses.

The writer is a sommelier

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