Experimenting with Whisky & Ginger

Phew! It’s warm today. During the previous week-of-Summer that we experienced back in June, I frequently found myself drawn to a whisky & ginger ale, mixed in a lovely, tall glass filled with ice. Deliciously cooling and refreshing, often with a lively kick of ginger, they’re perfect for a particularly warm day. But which ginger ale to use?

Canada Dry, Fevertree and Fentiman's Ginger Ales

Slightly bewildered at the choice available in the fridge, I decided to, in the style of DTS, explore a few different variations of the Whisky & Ginger in a blind tasting. Given the dramatic extent to which whiskies can differ from one another, I thought it best to try three different whiskies alongside each of my three ginger ales.

Each drink was mixed in a 2:1 (Ginger:Whisky) ratio. My notes can be found in the table below, in which – due to limitations of space – ‘N’ stands for “Nose” and ‘T’ stands for “Taste”.

Vat 69
A blend of over 40 malt and grain whiskies. Smooth, but full of flavour (40% ABV).
Grant’s Ale Cask
Grant’s whisky finished in barrels that had previously held Edinburgh Ale for 30 days. Malty and creamy (40% ABV).
Islay Mist
A wonderfully peaty blend of Laphroaig and Speyside malts (40% ABV).
Fevertree N: Generally sweet, with warm ginger and a hint of sea air at the end.
T: Not overly fizzy. Slight hint of peat, followed by a light, syrupy sweetness that – fortunately – never gets too sugary. Slightly dry towards the end. Soft, but flavourful.
[][][][][][][][] 8
N: Sweet, ginger like gingerbread, with a treacle-like sweetness. Hints of the sweeter notes of the whisky, with vanilla and sweet spice.
T: A good balance, with an interesting battle between the some sweeter and dryer notes; the taste switch between the two. There’s a pleasant warmth on the finish, but it’s quite short.
[][][][][][][ 6.5
N: A dry nose with lots of ginger and lovely notes of peat. The two notes go together very well; it alternates between moderate ginger and moderate peat.
T: Vigorous ginger, especially on the finish. Like the nose, there are strong notes of both the whisky and the ginger that go together remarkably well. The finish is warm and felt in the stomach, and there are interesting hints of pistachio and toasted almonds. Delicious and vibrant – my favourite!
[][][][][][][][][] 9
Canada Dry N: Peat and sea air, with more raw ginger root or powder than sweet ginger.
T: Far more fizzy, with a much more dominant flavour of the ginger ale. The whisky, which was stronger on the nose, comes through less on the tongue, which is covered with a creaminess from the ginger ale and an unpleasant artificial sweetness.
[][][][][] 5
N: Straw, wood, vanilla and sweet ginger.
T: Very fizzy, followed by wood notes from the whisky and sweetness. Then the palate clears and there’s an ever so slightly sour, bitter edge to the finish, which isn’t very pleasant.
[][][][][] 5
N: Mainly Islay peat, with a hint of spicy ginger at the end. Whisky is notably more dominant than in the other drinks.
T: Mainly whisky notes, with lots of peat and an almost “seaside” flavour: a salty, savoury hint that is strong on the edge of the tongue. After a moment, this fades into a woody sweetness, before faint ginger appears on the finish.
[][][][][][][] 7
Fentimans N: Very little on the nose, almost like the two ingredients cancel one another out. Faint wisps of whisky.
T: Quite fierce bubbles, but less than with the Canada Dry. The ginger notes fade into a lovely finish on the tongue and there’s substantial warmth in the stomach. Less sweet and a good balance of spirit and ginger, but some of the whisky notes are lost.
[][][][][][] 6
N: Dryer, with more warm, spicy ginger on the nose. Not much whisky.
T: Very spicy, indeed, with reasonably aggressive bubbles. An immediate burst of spicy ginger on the tongue is nicely supported by the warmth of the whisky. Although any deeper whisky flavours don’t manage to fight their way through the ginger ale, this still makes for a spicy and enjoyable drink, with a “just right” level of sweetness.
[][][][][][][] 7
N: Dryer nose, with fainter peat and no strong ginger notes, but rather a lighter, more citrusy “ginger ale” note.
T: Fresher and more fruity, followed by quite vigorous, hot ginger*. The peat of the whisky battles a little with the ginger, but there’s less harmony between the two flavours than in the previous two drinks; the ginger is just too strong.
[][][][][] 5

In Conclusion

This was a wonderful experiment that I’d definitely recommend to others now that the sunshine is back! I’d like to try a few more ginger ales in further tastings, but conclude that my favourite ginger ale of those that I tried was the Fevertree: I liked how it seemed to get the balance just right between adding some fiery ginger and still letting the whisky shine through – I shall have to try it with some other whiskies over the coming weeks.

– Mrs. B

* Although I do appreciate that this was my nineth Whisky & Ginger by this point, so, despite breaks between rounds, the ginger notes from previous drinks may have built up on my palate.

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