How to appreciate and love whisky in 5 simple steps

World Best Bar

Oct 02, 2018

how to taste whisky
Learn how to taste whisky with a few tasting tips.

To be honest, I always thought that I didn’t like whisky. To me, it was nothing but some strong liquor to mix with soda during college parties. However, one day, my parents had the brilliant idea of offering me a trip to Scotland for my birthday. Those four days in Edinburgh were to drastically change my vision of the golden beverage.

I had never thought whisky could be so diverse. Corn-based whisky, scotch, single malt, blended… A talk with the former owner of a distillery opened my eyes to the wonders of such a drink. He also taught me how to taste it properly.  And guess what?

It tasted good. Really good. I actually started appreciating it.

So if like me a few years ago, you’re willing to enhance your knowledge of whisky and to stop drinking it with Coca Cola at three in the morning in a crowded apartment, this tasting tutorial is made for you. It aims to help you acquire a taste for whisky. Ready? Let’s start!

1.       Find the proper place

You don’t want to taste whisky in a dirty garage. Whisky is an art, and it should be respected. Whether you’re on your own or with friends, I suggest you find a quiet place where you can taste your whisky in peace. A cosy bar, for instance.

2.       Focus on the colour

Once you’ve poured your whisky into a glass, lift the latter to have a look at the beverage in the light. The darker your drink is, the more matured. The colour comes from the whisky sitting in a cask over years. Once you have a clear idea of the age of your drink, you can move on to the next step.

3.       Trust your nose

The flavour first reveals itself through the nose. It is a foretaste of what you’re about to drink, so pay attention. Bring your glass closer and take a deep breath, then try to identify which aromas you smell: smoke, flowers, salt water…

4.       Taste it

We are finally getting to what you’ve been waiting for: tasting your drink. Be cautious when you do it. Take only a small sip first, and coat your mouth with it. Is the texture dry, creamy, oily? Do the flavors match the aromas?

5.       Don’t forget about the finish

Once you’ve swallowed, pay attention to the flavor that lingers on your palate and how long that lasts: this is the finish. The finest whiskies are known for having a long and consistent finish which allows you to appreciate the overall taste.

I suggest you start with a relatively smooth whisky, such as a Speyside like Aberlour or Glenlivet or a Highland like Royal Salute if you’re into Scotch these days. If it tastes too strong, you can add a few drops of water to the drink in order to make it smoother. It won’t weaken the taste, it will only help you perceive more flavours.

Don’t lose faith if at first, you can’t get all the aromas. Relax, watch Ken Loach’s movie – The Angel’s Share, one more time to put you in the right mood, and try again. You’ll get to it.

And please, forget about mixing whisky with soda. Or the spirits of horrified whisky lovers will haunt you for the rest of your life.

Candice Hamou


Photo by Dylan de Jonge on Unsplash

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