If you’ve never sampled whiskey before, it can be hard to understand how to get the most out of a tasting. It’s far different from winetasting, as nuanced flavors can be harder to discern for a beginner, and the high alcohol content can be overwhelming at first. Here are a few tips for starters:
- The Right Glass
A bell shaped tasting glass allows you to see the color as well as smell a whiskey’s notes without disturbing the pour. Keep in mind – you won’t need to swirl your whiskey like you do a wine – doing so will strengthen the smell of alcohol coming off the glass and cloud the actual flavors of the whiskey. A whiskey tasting glass is designed to direct the notes toward your nose.
- A Clean Palate
Having just eaten or being in an environment with strong smelling food can influence what you smell and taste. For the truest expression of the whiskey, a clean palate is best. A pitcher of water and some palate-cleansing crackers are fine, but hold off on other snacks until the tasting is complete.
- See, Smell, Then Taste.
Observe the color in the glass by holding it up to the light, or a white backdrop. The darker color the whiskey, the likelier it will taste richer. Once you’ve made note of the color, smell the whiskey gently, just above the glass – don’t jam it into the glass, you’ll only smell alcohol. Let the aromas come to you.
Now you’re ready to taste. A small sip will allow you to taste the flavors without being overwhelmed by the alcohol content. Let one small sip coat your palate, and then take another, paying attention to how the flavors come forward.
- Add a little water, and taste again.
A few drops of water dilute the whiskey, calming any bite and letting you taste the flavors more easily. Compare your second taste to your first. How are they different?
If you’re tasting a flight, stick to only a couple sips of each, and keep notes to compare and decide which aspects of a whiskey you like best. If you enjoy a whiskey better after adding a bit of water, consider ordering it on ice the next time you enjoy it.
A great way to get started? Our Viking Tumbler gift set. You get a favorite Scotch Whisky of ours and two tasting glasses to start your tasting adventure!