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Layered Malts: A 100% Whisky ‘Cocktail’ — Dramming
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Layered Malts: A 100% Whisky ‘Cocktail’

by Oliver Klimek on August 12, 2011

Somewhat fitting to this month’s poll topic about using whisky for mixing, I proudly present a cocktail made from 100% single malt whisky. This should get the seal of approval from the most die-hard critics, I hope…

I guess most of you have seen videos of Richard Paterson doing his little vaudeville trick of layering whisky on top of water. How does this work? Whisky and water have different densities. Liquids with different densities only mix when they are stirred or agitated otherwise. But when you are pouring carefully enough it is possible to put a lighter liquid on top of a heavier one.

There is also a traditional class of cocktails – the so called pousse cafés (coffee chasers) – which were very popular about a century ago that used this physics phenomenon to create impressive looking drinks. Recently there has been a bit of a renaissance of layered cocktails including the popular B-52 or Halloween drinks like Brain Hemorrage.

These drinks are usually poured over the back side of a spoon touching the wall of the glass to spread the flow as widely as possible. If the difference in density is big enough, this is not too difficult. Commonly a selection of syrups, sugary liqueurs and lighter spirits is chosen to create layer effects.

But it is also possible to do this with whisky only. The key is to use different alcoholic strengths and layering them starting off with the weakest whisky at the bottom of the glass. Of course the layers should have different colors as well. For my experiment I took Glenfiddich 12 (40%) as a base. The center layer is Bunnahabhain 12 (46.3) mixed with a little Caol Ila at cask strength to make it a bit stronger and brighter. The drink is topped with a layer of Macallan 10 Cask Strength (58.6%).

The differences in density are much smaller than with sugar or cream based liqueurs, so it is quite tricky to pour. The easiest method is to use a plastic syringe with the tip touching the wall of the glass. This gives you perfect control and the possibility to ‘pour’ very slowly.

The challenge is to drink it layer by layer.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Ryan M August 12, 2011 at 12:01 pm

“The challenge is to drink it layer by layer.”

You addressed my only question at the very last line, it surely must blend as you sip on it!


Oliver Klimek August 12, 2011 at 12:05 pm

You could also use a straw to drink it from bottom to top 😉


bsod August 13, 2011 at 5:18 am



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