Gone are the days when Scotch drinkers would drink whisky only neat, or at most with a drop of water and nothing else. No mixers or ice, as that ruins the drink.

Nowadays, whisky has changed its image and gone from an old man’s drink to a modern, hip spirit to enjoy in cocktails, with mixers, with ice; basically, any way you want.

Let’s first explore how to taste whisky like an expert.

Most brand ambassadors, whisky experts, and distillers have their own way of tasting whisky and hosting a tasting for guests.

Some experts lead guests through the tasting with personal notes, while others allow drinkers to taste and express what they taste on their own.

Nonetheless, no matter the method, there are simple steps we take when tasting whisky in order to get the most out of each drop. Pour a glass, don’t add anything yet, and here we go:

1. Observe

The first step is to simply look at the whisky in your glass, preferably against a white background. Its colour can tell you quite a lot about the whisky.

Some are amber, light gold, others are very light; these colours tell the story of what kind of cask the whisky was matured in, where it was made, and how long it aged.

Usually, older whiskies are darker.

Gently swirl the whisky in your glass and get ready to taste.

2. Smell

Experiencing the aromas of a whisky is, perhaps, the most important part of the tasting.

Bring your nose to the glass slowly as many expressions can be over 50% in alcohol content and thus it will be too intense, if your nose is not accustomed.

Get in close to the glass, take your time, and start sniffing.

Some recommend frequent, small sniffs, while others say long soft sniffs are better. However, this isn’t important.

Take your time, and slowly smell the whisky. Try to focus on certain aromas, and what they remind you of.

As a beginner this can be hard, but aim for one aroma at first and build up to more. Take 30 seconds to 1 minute here and break it down as much as you can.

3. Taste

Now it’s time for tasting – take a small sip. Some recommend washing the first sip around your mouth for a few seconds and then swallowing, preparing your palette for the following sips.

Take another sip. As with the aromas, try to focus on flavours that immediately come to mind – there is no wrong answer.

Write the notes down and spent two to five minutes sipping slowly, moving the whisky around your mouth and discovering flavours.

4. Add water

Some whiskies are very strong, but even if they are not, adding a few drops of water really opens up the whisky. It lowers the alcohol percentage, allowing more aromas and flavours to shine through.

Novice or connoisseur, this is always recommended after first tasting the whisky neat. After all, it’s something almost every whisky maker does.

Those are four simple steps to properly taste whisky.

When not tasting whisky this way, try a Whisky Highball for a lighter version of the spirit, enjoy it with ice, or in cocktails.

If you like it, that’s all that matters.

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