How to Taste Whisky


Enjoying whisky is a very personal affair, and every imbiber will surely have their ritual to best experience the first taste of a new whisky they’re trying out. We’d love to share with you precisely how we first experience a new whisky.

Before we begin, we need a few things to aid us in this joyous occasion. First and foremost, a glass to carry our delectable dram, and for this, there are two main options to choose from - a Glencairn glass, or a stemmed tulip glass. Of course, there are a plethora of other glass options, but they are generally considered to be less beneficial to the drinking experience (pssst, if you don’t have anything else handy, your smallest wine glass will work just fine!). Beyond the glass, we’ll need a dropper/pipette, glass of water, and a pen and paper. Though don’t forget the whisky!

1. Smell the aromas of the whisky and take note of what comes to mind

With everything in place and ready to go, let’s get stuck into the dram! Make sure to give the whisky a gentle swirl around the glass, similar to how you would with a good glass of wine. Again, similarly to wine, bring the glass to your nose and get a good whack of aromas. Take note of your initial thoughts, then get your nose back in there for a second whiff, followed by a third. It is really helpful to write down everything that popped into your mind - don’t be afraid to think outside of the box too, it always helps us to link it to any memories it might invoke.


2. Take a sip

With the smelling done, take a decent sip and savour the whisky. Roll it around your mouth, so it hits every nook and cranny in there, then swallow and enjoy the finish. Consider not only the flavours you experience, but also the weight and body of the whisky, and how it coats your mouth and throat. Swallow and savour the finish before making any notes. Again, like with nosing, don’t just stop at one sip, enjoy another and try to focus on a different phase or on a particular characteristic you noticed earlier that you want to explore deeper.

water-and-pipette3. Add water and repeat

Now add a touch of water, and go through the nosing and tasting steps again. The added water will help to open up a lot of whiskies, adapting many of the characteristics present when neat. Not every whisky improves with water, and not every imbiber likes to add water, but it can be a fascinating experiment to experience the evolution of a whisky’s flavour profile.

A few extra steps for the keen:

  • - Take note of the whisky’s appearance in the glass, consider the colour and what that may suggest about the whisky. Try writing down your impressions, and see if they match what you experience when tasting it.
  • - Don’t make your new whisky lonely, include one or two other whiskies from your collection to taste alongside it. This way you’ll have something to contrast and compare to it!