The best letter in each issue wins a bottle of Berry's Blue Hanger 25 year old. Always impeccably turned out, just like the gentleman it is named after, Berry's Blue Hanger offers soft citrus aromas intermingled with leather, custard and pears, leading to an elegant butterscotch and rich orange peel palate with a dry smoky finale. One to ponder.Aperitif Anyone?We often see whiskies promoted as an aperitif or a digestif, but how does one go about deciding which is which, and does it really matter? To research this phenomenon (I just love conducting research on whisky), I descended into the inner sanctums of my whisky library (with dram in hand) to seek out some answers.Sure enough, several books claim that certain whiskies are good as either an aperitif or digestif - without reference to why.According to the Canadian Oxford Dictionary, 'aperitif' is a French term meaning 'an alcoholic drink taken before a meal to stimulate the appetite.' A 'digestif' is also a French term for "something which promotes good digestion, especially a drink taken after a meal, e.g., a liqueur or brandy.'Why haven't similar words been created in the English language? Are the French the only ones that drink before or after a meal? Traditional aperitifs are usually wine or spirit based and are relatively dry compared to digestifs. The most obvious difference between the two is the level of sweetness. Too much sugar in an aperitif can ruin an appetite, but after a meal richer drinks can be relaxing and satisfying.With this morsel of knowledge under our belt, how do we go about matching malts with our meal, or meals with our malts?For an aperitif, I suggest you look for adjectives that describe the taste of the whisky as dry, grassy, cerealy, nutty or the catch-all phrase 'less complex.' The colour should be light (it makes sense) indicating aging in a bourbon cask.For a digestif, look for descriptors like fruity, floral and sweet. I think all whiskies with a defined peat reek would certainly fall into this category. This is also where the whiskies aged in sherry casks or with wine or port finishes really lend themselves well to relaxation.As to be expected, digestifs are enjoyed in small amounts and savoured for their robust aroma. They are to be enjoyed like good conversation; not tossed down in quantities (Whisky Magazine readers are exempt from this rule).Also, can the regional classifications of whisky help us make an informed choice? Today, regional characteristics may be fading but I suggest aperitifs are chosen from any Lowland or Campbeltown whisky and digestifs are picked from the Highlands and Islands.After sampling as many expressions of malts as possible I have come up with top five list in each category (in alphabetical order):Aperitif: Glenfiddich, Glenkinchie, Rosebank, Springbank and The Glenlivet.
Digestif: Ardbeg, Bowmore, Laphroaig, Talisker and The Macallan.
Anytime: Bruichladdich, Bunnahabhain, Glenfarclas, Glenmorangie and Highland Park.We can discuss these selections at length, but I would rather leave it up to you to decide . And if you want to invite me over to sample along with you, all the better. Slainte.Chris Brousseau