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Belly up to the Bar - Part 4: The Finishing Touch

June 10, 2021

If you had to decide on anything you’d want to come to an end, one might volunteer such things like world hunger, or strip searches at the airport, possibly even the life of anyone who writes another vampire book.

Certainly, one thing no one looks forward to seeing is the bottom of an empty whiskey glass.

Thankfully, this is not what is meant when referring to the word finish in the world of nosing and tasting. The “finish” alludes to those flavors and aromas that still linger after the alcohol has been swallowed. Personally, I think the whiskey’s job isn’t over until it’s established a small furnace in your stomach—a potbellied stove for some.

But as you note, or even record your observations on the different whiskies you try, you’ll find some finishes stick around longer than others. A little bit like the bloom of youth on Dick Clark.

Terms to express a whiskey’s finish are oftentimes paired with language that describes its texture—words like long, dry, chewy, clean, fresh or lingering, but you can come up with your own text—declarations that are meaningful to you.

I’d hope you’d stay away from language like yuck, horrid and awful. In these cases, switch your glass or change your whiskey.

There’s also the hope that the whiskey in your glass will be one of those that reveal new flavors before its initial flavor profile times out. It’s like having a second blossoming of aromas and flavors that linger on your tongue, but also change as the environment in your mouth alters.

This experience is brought to you by your olfactory epithelium—a postage stamp-sized patch of tissue at the back of your nose and tongue that recognizes millions (yes, millions) of aromas noticeable to the human nose and helps enhance your flavor observations as well.

If given a few extra seconds of serious consideration, there’s a very good chance its efforts to augment your enjoyment will push you to leave money to it in your will as an act of appreciation.

Like many distilleries around the world, we here at Reservoir feel our whiskies offer you three distinct experiences to observe the aroma and flavor analysis of our spirits: the nose, the palate, and the finish—each worth savoring. So our advice to you is to stretch out that sip. We know how hard it is to keep from reaching for that Glencairn glass and the next nip, but we promise, it’s worth the wait.

Now that you’ve had an opportunity to learn the gratifying lessons of nosing and tasting, you can walk your guests and friends through the fun, coming off as the erudite individual we all know you are (if for no other reason than the fact that you drink Reservoir whiskey).

Keeping a notebook with the observations you collect not only helps you become a more learned and discerning connoisseur of this beautiful spirit, but will also allow you to help others decide what they’d like to drink when on the town in your company or in your home (and hopefully invited).

People often have no idea what flavors they’d like and will shy away from making a costly mistake or taking a chance on something they’d find off-putting. You can come to their aid by describing some of the drams you’ve already tried, putting your companions at ease, and in your debt.

So to recap these last four lessons that fall under our Reservoir’s Quartern on Whiskey Tasting 101:

  • Blow your nose, clean your glass, pour your dram, and note the color, viscosity, and clarity. (Part 1)
  • Swirl, or not. Dab a drop on the back of your hand. Sniff both hand and glass. Identify. (Part 2)
  • Note the strength. Add H2O (or not). Take a sip. Breathe. Try not to choke. (Part 3)
  • Classify the finish. Select a notebook. Decorate with stickers. Consider yourself profoundly cultured. (Part 4)

School is out.

You may leave your teacher assessments on my desk, but remember I know your handwriting.

Now go forth and multiply … your experiences with whiskey more confidently.

~Shelley Sackier—Director of Distillery Education