When appreciating whisky, one is always thought to nose the spirit. To let the bouquets and aromas permeate the olfactory before imbibing it. There is a reason for this: taste is not limited to the tongue. The sense of taste begins in the nose, which whets the appetite and prepares the palate; what you taste on your tongue is merely a confirmation of what you have smelt with your nose.
In a series of workshops held at the Majestic Kuala Lumpur, the world’s most handcrafted single malt – The Balvenie – sought to highlight this. Designed to appeal to a female audience, intimidated by the esoteric rituals of whisky, The Balvenie’s Sensory workshop focused on introducing whisky through a simple training of the nose. Neil Stratchan, regional brand ambassador for The Balvenie in Southeast Asia, led the proceedings. Jovial and jocular, Stratchan has enough personality to fill an entire auditorium, but for these workshops, yielded centrestage to Sandy Blandin. Founder of Nose Who Knows, a fragrance studio dedicated to the science of olfaction, the charming Blandin was teacher for an evening.
Tiny bottles were handed out and the assembled were asked to smell, then choose which it corresponded to best: a spice box, a platter of fruit and a bouquet of flowers. Opening the bottle, yielded a punchy hit of tropical fruit – pineapple, mango, banana – segueing into the introduction of The Balvenie 14 Year Old Carribean Cask, containing many of those very flavours. A change of scenery, and a confounding challenge of identifying which two scents of three were vanilla, led to a tasting of the meady Doublewood 12 Year Old. Finally, a task to ascribe descriptive words to a zingy, fresh scent, which turned out to be the crisp green apple found in the Doublewood 17 Year Old. With nostrils thoroughly polished, the crowning 21 Year Old Port Wood merged all those senses together.
Up to 90% of our ability to taste comes from the nose; the tongue will give your texture and confirmation, but our nostrils can sense up to a trillion individual scents. It can takes years to train a nose – Blandin has 15 years of experience, coming from the perfume industry – but just a little practice can elevate appreciation. The Balvenie, and its kaleidoscope of flavours, is the perfect starting point to unveil a whole new world. It all makes scents now!