How to taste whisky



On the rocks, with soda water, with a mixer, in a cocktail – there’s only one way to enjoy whisky, and that’s whatever way you like. However, it is important to appreciate the spirit in its most simple state from time-to-time, particularly if it’s a whisky you’ve not yet tried. So, here’s a simple guide to the art of tasting, created to get you (and your taste buds) going.

Illustrations by Mark McCormick

  1. Taste with your eyes – Admire the colour the wood has given the whisky. Every one is slightly different. Make it approachable by relating it to what you know.
  2. Check out the legs – Swirl and admire the legs streaking down the glass. This indicates viscosity or ‘mouthfeel’. The thicker the legs, the more voluptuous the mouthfeel.
  3. Shake the glass – Put your hand over the glass and shake the whisky. Watch how long it takes the resultant bubbles to disappear. The longer it takes, the higher the ABV. Rub your hands together and smell the barley from which the whisky was made.
  4. More sniffing – Move your glass towards your nose while taking short, sharp sniffs. Keep your mouth open. Trust your nose. There’s no right or wrong – everything you smell comes from life experience.
  5. Have a try – Take a good sip of your whisky. Taste comes from the tongue while flavour comes from your nose, so breathe to aid your orthonasal perception. Take in the texture and swallow.