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Expatica: a bookshop whisky experience.

The Swiss site at Expatica aims to provide expatriates with a community, helping them to integrate in their new home. One part of the service is organising expat-oriented events around the country. Here's a look at a whisky nosing and tasting event that was held in Basel.

Dianne Dicks, manager of the Bergli English Bookshop in Basel, had heard exciting stories about the "Scotch Whisky Nosing & Tasting" recently held at the St. Gotthard Hotel. So she contacted Ken Reist of Fxpatica Switzerland and proposed her bookshop as the venue for the next tasting event, which was held in February.

In an effort to provide the expatriate community with interesting events, Ken got to work locating the necessary material, sponsorship and promotion. He was also anxious to obtain the same guest speaker-Malcolm Andrews, known as Scotland's 'Whisky Ambassador'.

The next concern was assembling a collection of exquisite single malt whiskies and hundreds of 'nosing glasses', especially designed for the event. Help came from Classic Malts (a Diageo[TM] brand) who supplied the necessary ingredients. Sponsors bmi airlines and Neutrale Versicherungs Center offered financial support, and Dianne took on the event's promotion herself. Twenty eager participants soon signed up, turning the "Bergli Scotch Whisky Nosing & Tasting" into a reality--complete with its own designed 'tasting mat'!

Swirl, sniff and savour

With the books cleared away, the tables and shelves were decked out with tasting mats, seven malt whiskies, water and a Classic Malts informative booklet.

Malcolm soon got into the swing of a highly educational and entertaining talk, beginning with how alcohol is extracted from cereal grains. Malt whisky is produced from barley grains that undergo malting, mashing, fermenting and distillation to become a single malt Scotch whisky.

Maturing the whisky for many years in oak casks is essential to guarantee a gradual 'softening' for a velvet-like effect in the throat. Much of this oak wood comes from Spanish bodegas used to mature sherry. This explains the whisky's colour: it extracts sherry sugars from the wood. Much whisky evaporates through the wood during maturation--jocularly known as 'the angels' share'.

S Surprisingly, about 90 per cent of Scotch whisky produced is 'blended': a marriage of grain whisky (made from maize, wheat, etc.), with whiskies made from malted barley. Blends are generally drunk 'long' and malt whisky 'short'.

Malcolm took his audience deep into the art of 'nosing', where the nose's olfactory nerves are more sensitive than the mouth's taste buds. A few drops of water were judiciously added to the whisky to break open surface tension, reduce the alcohol attack and release its aroma.

Following him attentively, participants endeavoured to determine the style of each whisky. Passing from region to region, they noted their preferences--from the sweet and heathery nose of the Highlands to the smoky and somewhat iodic style of the western isles.

Like French wines, the regions of whisky production are an indicator of style. Thus, by sampling Lowland, Highland, Speyside, Island and Islay whiskies, participants were able to establish personal regional preferences. Finally Malcolm produced a bottle of 'blended malt', a marriage of several single malts. This Green Label (a Johnnie Walker brand) provoked a lot of interest and discussion.



The 'tasters' were unanimous. It had been a most valuable and enjoyable experience--carried along by Malcolm Andrews' blend of humour and whisky knowledge. Hopefully he will return to Switzerland later in the year. Check the Expatica website for news and updates.


Ken Reist, Manager Switzerland

Expatica Communications B.V.


Telephone: +41 (0)44 586 11 78

GSM: +41 (0)79 468 67 68
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Title Annotation:EXPAT NEWS
Publication:Swiss News
Date:Apr 1, 2009
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