Enjoy A Perfect Dram of Acquavitae


Scotch whisky inspires a near cult-like devotion among circles with an affinity for malt beverages. Known for its pungent, peaty aroma with a long, lingering finish, Scotch whisky, the iconic malt beverage from Scotland, is designed to sip, and not shoot akin to its popular siblings like Vodka and Tequila.  

How to do you prefer sipping your favorite Scotch? This quintessential question can generate a diverse set of responses some of which include I take my Scotch neat, I prefer adding a splash or a few drops of water, I like my Scotch with a few ice cubes, or I like to blend my Scotch with soda and/or coca-cola.    

While there are no “correct” responses, because drinking alcoholic beverages is a matter of taste and preference, aficionados have long recommended taking your dram with a few drops of water. A Scotch enthusiast may ask why must I add water? The answers vary, but some of the more emblematic responses include:

  • Splash of water takes away the stinging or burning sensation when you “nose the whisky” thereby liberating the true spirit locked in the bottom of the glass to rise to the top
  • Splash of water dilutes the alcohol volume
  • Splash of water takes away the heady alcohol smell/taste away

Nose your Whiskey

To fully appreciate the spirit, which has been craftily aged in a barrel anywhere from 3 to 25 years, you must let the nose kiss the tip of your whisky glass and then proceed to inhale deeply (your chance to “inhale if you missed it when you were young and restless”). This ritual is very similar to how you get acquainted with, or nose, your red wine.  When nosing, we are paying careful attention to the following olfactory receptacles.

  • Smokiness: Flavor the peatiness as malted barley is often thrown over a peat fire to smoke it.
  • Saltiness: Smell the distinctly maritime smell mostly unique to Islay whiskies.
  • Fruitiness: Identify the fruits contained in the alcohol which may include dried currants, apricot, peach, or cherry.
  • Sweetness: Savor the discrete caramel, toffee, vanilla, honey tones or some other confections that you might decipher.
  • Woodiness: Oak is an integral companion of the whisky-aging process, which makes the smell of wood in Scotch omnipresent.

Swedish Connection

Bjorn Karlsson and Ran Friedman, a pair of Biochemists doing nose-breaking research at Linnaeus University in Kalmar, have finally provided a truly spiritual response to why splash of water is highly recommended for deriving the optimal olfactory pleasures from whisky consumption. Scottish whisky, especially the ones from the Island of Islay, contain a group of flavor-packed molecules known as “phenols” and “guaiacol.”

Laboratory simulations reveal that adding a splash of water or H2O makes guaiacol rise to “the air-liquid interface.” Because the drink is consumed at the interface first, adding water to whisky helps to enhance its taste. The concentrations of guaiacol are in much higher proportions in Scottish whiskies than in American or Irish ones, which is why the releasing of taste/flavors is much more pronounced in Scotch whisky than in its counterparts in the US or Ireland.

The fundamental conclusion from this original path-breaking scientific study is that it behooves us not to add a splash of water when we commiserate with our own spirits while leisurely sipping that perfect Scotch whisky.

Enjoy your Perfect Dram! High Noroc!

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedinmailby feather

Tryst with Transylvania

transylvaniaSituated in central Romania and surrounded by the Carpathian mountain chain, Transylvania or the “land beyond the forest” is easily one of Europe’s best-preserved medieval towns. Bram Stoker’s 1897 vampire novel was inspired by Vlad Dracula, a 15th-century Wallachian nobleman who lived in a castle close to Brasov (a town south-east of Transylvania). According to some estimates, Transylvania has about 100 castles and fortresses and about 70 fortified churches.

Some travelers describe Transylvania as ‘the last truly medieval landscape in Europe,’ which seems quite accurate. Hergé, the creator of Tintin, might have had Transylvania in mind when he wrote ‘King Ottokar’s Sceptre’! Some of the more prominent Saxon regions in Transylvania including Sighișoara, Biertan, and Viscri are deemed as Unesco World Heritage Sites.

Brief History

Because of Transylvania’s colossal natural beauty, the region was coveted and acquired many times over by various empires and kingdoms. The region was an integral part of the Kingdom of Hungary between 950-1526. Subsequently, it became an independent Principality (1526-1690) before being reabsorbed by the Habsburg Empire. It was united with Wallachia and Moldovia to form what we know as Romania today after the Austro-Hungarian Empire was dissolved in the Treaty of Triannon. After World War I, Transylvania became part of Greater Romania.

The region was dominated by Wallachians, Moldovans, Hungarians, Germans, Romas, Jews, and Armenians. Because of the diversity in racial composition, Transylvania’s history is marked by turbulent periods. The cultural differences within Transylvania are stark. According to experts, the South is dominated by a Saxon culture, the East and North East characterized by a Hungarian culture, the North is more Slavic.

Traditional Cuisine

Transylvania’s cuisine is heavily influenced by German, Greek, and Turkish cultures. The key condiments include thyme, red pepper, tarragon and some regions specific wonders like leuștean and cimbru. The staple ingredient is built around lamb, beef, chicken or pork.

All meals traditionally begin with a soup or ciorbă which has many variations including beef, egg yolk, flour dumplings, homemade pasta, or regional vegetables. One national treasure is ciorbă de burtă or a soup made of a cow’s stomach. Soups are traditionally served with a red or green pepper on the side to spice up the palate. As a leading producer of cabbage (varza), it is not surprising to find variations of cabbage cooked in slow heat with various types of animal protein. The most popular side dish is mămăligă – polenta served with a dollop of fresh smântână (sour cream).

Some of the popular main courses include sarmale (cabbage rolls stuffed with spiced pork and rice), Tochitură (pork and beef stew cooked in spicy tomato or wine sauce) served with fried egg yolk. The most popular grill food is a distinctive form of sausage called mici (grilled rolls of minced pork, beef and lamb). What distinguishes a mici from other types of sausages is the absence of any sheath around the meat.

The dessert menu includes strudels and cakes, clătite, (crepes filled with chocolate or fresh fruit) and the simply divine papanaşi or a fried dough sweetened with cream cheese or jam (a sweet beignet). Food is typically served with wine, which is less than mediocre (the natives beg to disagree), beer, which is of high quality, or ţuică (plum-based snap liqueur sure to give you a hangover).

Beware, the culinary experience in Transylvania is expected to increase the chances of a heart attack. But then who cares about the efficacy of arteries pumping blood into the heart when one has a date with ‘Ambrosia’ and divine food.

Noroc (cheers)!

Brasov, July 11, 2016, 1.45P

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedinmailby feather

© 2018 Aloke Ghosh

Theme by Anders NorénUp ↑