How to drink whisky

by Colin Sinclair
man who is about to taste whisky from tulip-shaped glass
Whisky is an acquired taste. And to truly appreciate its unique aromas and flavours, in our opinion, it should be sipped slowly in its pure state – particularly if it’s a whisky you’ve never tried before. Ultimately, your goal should be to savour and enjoy this delicious spirit as much as possible.
To set you (and your taste buds!) on the right track, here we’ve created a simple guide on the art of tasting whisky. So, why not invest in a luxury whisky tasting set today and get started? You’ll be a whisky tasting professional in no time!

5 steps to taste whisky properly

1. Choose your glass

It may not seem important, but your glass can have a huge impact on the taste of a whisky.
To get the most out of its unique scent and flavour, a tulip-shaped ‘Glencairn’ is typically recommended. This has a wide base, which allows you to swirl the liquor and appreciate its appearance, whilst the narrow opening helps to concentrate the spirit’s delicious aromas.
The best way to drink whisky is neat and a little whisky goes a long way. Start by pouring a 30ml measure into your glass. This is the volume found in our whisky tasting sets and it’s more than enough to sample the whiskies properly, asses their flavours and pick out your favourite.

different whiskies to taste

2. Examine the appearance

Hold the glass up to the light and consider its appearance carefully.
Whiskies range in colour, from light golden amber to dark nut-like brown. And this colour can tell you quite a lot about it – including the type of cask it was matured in, where it was made, and its age. Generally speaking, the darker the whisky, the older and more flavoursome it will be.
At this stage, you should also swirl the liquor around the inside of the glass and check for streaks – as this indicates whether the whisky is viscous and oily or light and delicate.

3. Smell the aromas

Before tasting the whisky, it’s important to smell its unique aromas. But don’t put your nose in the glass and hold it there (like you would with wine). Whisky starts at 40% ABV (alcohol by volume) and the smell would be far too intense. Instead, you should inhale its delicious scent slowly – either by using a ‘dip-in, dip-out’ movement or hovering your nose just above the opening of the glass.
At first, the smell of alcohol may be overpowering. But if you repeat the process a few times, you should start to notice other notes and flavours – such as wood, spice, grains and fruit. It’s also a good idea to keep your mouth open as you inhale, as this will enhance your sense of smell.

man tasting whisky with his friends

 4. Take a small sip

Whisky should never be gulped down. To admire its flavours, take a very small sip and move it slowly around your tongue. Some people even like to ‘chew’ the liquor, ensuring that it fully coats the inside of their mouth – and allowing them to experience the taste of caramel, toffee, vanilla etc.
Breathe through your nose as you swallow and then wait for a moment to appreciate the aftertaste. The flavour of the whisky will linger on your taste buds, evolve and then slowly fade away.

5. Add a splash of water

The first sip of whisky may just taste of alcohol. But it’s important to give your palate time to adjust. Don’t give up on it straight away and, after a few more sips, the other flavours should start to unfold.
If not, one trick is to add a few drops of water. This will dull the harshness of the alcohol and bring out the tastier (more subtle) flavours of the whisky itself. However, it’s important to introduce the water little-by-little, so that you don’t accidentally dilute it too much. And if you’d prefer your whisky to be extra cold, we recommend using chilled whisky stones rather than ice cubes.

whisky tasting sets available at Whisky Tasting Company

Ready to start tasting whisky?

Here at Whisky Tasting Company, we have a diverse range of whisky tasting sets for you to choose from – including everything from classic sets that feature single malts and grains, to old and rare collections from Scotland’s finest distilleries. Each set comes with either three or five 30ml whisky miniatures and they’re the perfect way to learn how to drink whisky and truly appreciate its delectable flavour.
So, why not treat yourself today?
Browse our full online range, place an order and master the art of tasting whisky in the comfort of your own home. And remember, if you have any questions – about the best way to sample our liquors or the tasting sets currently available – you’re always welcome to get in touch. Either give us a call on 01743 247220 or send an online message and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.