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A dummy’s guide to the dram

What is a malt? What even is a dram? And where is the best whisky from? The LaLee’s Andrea Taiuti explains all

25 January 2023

The LaLee's Old Fashioned cocktail

Know your whisky from your bourbon? Have a taste for peaty tipples? Or perhaps you haven’t the faintest what a dram is? But with Burns Night just around the corner, there’s no better time for a masterclass in whisky and how to drink it, so we asked Andrea Taiuti, bar and beverage manager at The LaLee for all his expert tips. 

Read on to discover the best ones to try from The LaLee’s menu, how to get started if you’re new to the drink and more. 


Where should people start with tasting whisky?

I would begin by trying a single malt, such as Bowmore. 

Single malt means that the drink is produced using a single type of grain (almost always malted barley but sometimes rye in the USA), distilled in copper pot stills in a batch process, and it all happens in one distillery. It is usually aged for at least three years in oak casks.


Is this different from blended whisky?

Yes. Blended whisky uses, as the name suggests, a number of different whiskies with other ingredients. 


What does age mean on a bottle? 

It refers to the number of years that a whisky has been matured for, or in the case of a blend, the youngest aged whisky in the mix, so if a bottle says ‘12 years’, for instance, there might also be older ingredients in there.


What is a dram?

A ‘dram’ is an informal way to describe a small measure of whisky. A ‘fluid dram’ is a real unit of measurement, but there is no official measure for a whisky dram. Most people say it’s between 25-35 millilitres.


What’s the key to enjoying whisky?

I believe that you should drink whisky neat, or with a splash of water to open up the flavours. But I would not have it with ice as this can diminish some of the taste. 

I also suggest being adventurous and sampling whiskies from all around the world, because there are some amazing ones to be found outside of the usual places like Scotland and Ireland. You can do this at The LaLee.


Tell us about The LaLee’s whisky selection.

Well, The Cadogan Hotel and The LaLee are part of the Belmond Group, which is owned by LVMH, so we have exclusive access to many of the House’s drinks that you can’t find elsewhere. This includes the entire Glenmorangie selection, Ardbeg and WhistlePig.

And in just the same way that The LaLee’s culinary menu is a trip around the world in tribute to Lillie Langtry, so is our bar selection. In addition to Scottish whiskies, we also have bottles from Japan, Taiwan, India and America (the types from the USA are spelt whiskey, with an ‘e’). 


Are there differences between whiskies from these places? 

There is a significant taste difference. Of course, the main country for whisky is Scotland, where it is often called scotch. There are many regions, from Campbeltown to Islay, Lowlands and Speyside, and each one has its own signature taste. 

Different kinds of wood casks are used to develop the flavour of whisky, too. Oak and cherrywood casks are common, and the longer the whisky stays in these barrels, the more it will take on tasting notes from the wood. 

I suggest being adventurous and sampling whiskies from all around the world

Are bourbon and whisky the same?

Bourbon is a type of whisky, but to be called such it must be made from at least 51% corn with no additives like caramel or sweetener – these rules are the law in the USA, where the drink is most commonly produced. And usually, bourbon is stronger in terms of ABV.


What’s your favourite whisky?

I’m a big fan of heavily peated whiskies, which taste really smoky, such as Laphroaig and Lagavulin – both from Islay in the Scottish Highlands. On the Japanese side, Akashi has a lovely flavour. You can try all of these at The LaLee.


Can you recommend a whisky cocktail?

Here at The LaLee, we make a lot of Old Fashioneds – a whisky-based drink that uses Angostura bitters, a touch of water, orange garnish and a brown sugar cube that is dissolved in ice. It’s very popular among our customers, and we can customise it with different twists (like lemon zest instead of orange; vanilla; or even bacon fat to cut through the strength of the whisky) to suit a person’s taste. 


The LaLee, 75 Sloane Street, SW1X 9SG

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