Strictly speaking, there is no rule about how whisky can best be drunk. However, using some tasting techniques can considerably enhance the pleasure of drinking a dram.
Tips on this page are left for anyone to judge it for himself and the described ritual should not be considered to be a general rule. Even without following them, a good whisky can be appreciated...
A general remark however, whisky is like great wines: you have to enjoy it. Just like great wines, never put ice in a whisky. The purchase price, which is generally high, is mostly in direct relation with the pleasure you can get from enjoying it. If your goal is to get stoned, then it is better to go and drink something else, with the same effects, but cheaper and less complex.See examples of on the
Having an occasional drink is fine, but if you're making it a thrice-daily habit, perhaps it's time for you to seek help for alcoholics, because that's what you're gradually turning into.
The glass that is traditionally called a "whisky glass" - tumbler is to ban in any case. This glass, with a wide opening and with a thick bottom is usually used to perpetrate the "lese-whisky" crime which consists of pouring the whisky on a bed of ice, and doing so, killing all fragrances which are the spirit of single malt whisky.
This glass, due to its form, lets out all the fragrances. This glass is absolutely not suited to drink single malt, as the richness of the fragrances is the main characteristic of a good single malt.
Is there any point to drink whisky without any aroma? From my point of view, it would be better then to drink cheaper alcohol. But the tumbler is not the worse you could use. What would you think about the one under itt? It is designed to kill all fragrances, and to hide the colour. This is the summon of the crime. Why do whisky producers manipulate their alcohol so carefully, and why did they mature it so long...?
The shape and the colour of the glass are essential in the tasting of whisky. However, there is an exception to the rule. Coloured glasses are sometimes used in "blind tastings" (see first picture of this article). One is not influenced by the colour in the evaluation of the quality of the whisky. But, even in this case, the shape of those glasses should definitively be avoided.
As for Cognac, the glass contributes to the circulation of the fragrances. The traditional "Cognac glass" is never used by still men. Those glasses were invented by Americans to drink a French spirit.
The traditional glass used by still men is figured on the right. The same shape of glasses is ideal for drinking whisky. It is the ideal glass, avoiding the loss of fragrances.
To be really perfect, this tulip-shaped glass can be covered with a glass top.
The ideal glass is figured on the left.
This is currently a very current glass and one can find it nearly anywhere.
It should be a shame not to have one, as it enhances the taste of whisky so much.
Whisky: do's and don't's
Ice is to be avoided in any case. Ice neutralizes and kills almost all the aromas in the whisky, and anaesthetizes the papilla's.
A good whisky does not need any mixture to be appreciated. Additions of coke or any other kind of soda is to be avoided. The only liquid whisky can stand is water. Preferably fresh mineral water. Ideal would be to add the same water that was used during the distilling process. But this is nearly impossible ...
Whisky is by definition a strong alcohol (between 40% and 60%). This high alcohol rate is difficult to appreciate by people who are not used to it. This can be considered as an aggression to the papilla's. Adding some fresh water softens the aggressive character of a strong alcohol.
But, even for people who are used to drink strong alcohols, adding a drop of fresh water will open up new horizons. Adding a drop of water will provoke a chemical reaction, freeing the fragrances. The whisky will "open" itself.
In the case of a "cask strength" (generally round 60%), adding water will make it possible to taste the whisky at different alcohol rates. The drinker is entitled to determine the best alcohol rate for himself. When he decides it has reached the ideal alcohol rate, he just can stop adding water.
Ideal tasting and nosing steps
1. Observe the colour
Pour the whisky in the glass, and examine the colour by looking at it in a perfectly clean glass in front of a light source. The colour tells something about the type of maturing casks and the age of whisky.
2. Observe the "legs" on the glass
After having looked at the colour, just gently swirl the whisky in the glass .After a while, you'll see some traces in it. The viscosity of the whisky provokes this traces, which are called "legs". The distance between the legs helps to determine the age of the whisky and the nature of the cask used for the maturation.
3. Taste whisky
Scotsmen say "tongue feel" for tasting the whisky. For this important step, just take a small quantity of whisky in your mouth, and hold it for 10 seconds at least. Swirl it gently in the mouth, and be sure it has "traveled" on the various parts of the tongue.
4. Smell the aromas
After having looked at its "legs" and "felt its taste" with the tongue, swirl the whisky in the glass again, and "nose" it by moving the glass under the nose, and breath normally. This operation reveals the most unexpected fragrances.
5. Free the bouquet
Now is the moment to add some water. There are different opinions about how much water should be added. Personally I just add one drop of water. This "opens" the whisky. After having done this, repeat steps 3 and 4 and reconsider the characteristics of the whisky after the addition of water.
6. Consider the finish
The length of the "finish" (the time the taste of whisky remains in your mouth) gives precious indications about the age of the whisky.
About tasting notes
Why writing tasting notes?
A good whisky provides intense pleasure that encourages to look for other comparable whiskys. The flavors are very subtle and intellectual effort to try to distinguish them can contribute to further increase the pleasure taken in a whisky tasting.
Often the pleasure experienced incites to try to find other whiskys with the same profile, or otherwise presenting a radically different profile. The best way to remember the impressions felt in the taste of a whisky is taking notes.
The tasting notes always express a personal feeling, which can vary from day to day depending on the circumstances.
Example of compared tastings
The blind tasting sessions organized by the site: WDTS (Whisky-Distilleries Tasting Sessions)
The forum associated with this site organizes regular sessions of blind tasting for its members. These tastings are based on whiskies sent by the producers. Per session, about twenty participants participate and write their own notes, without knowing which whisky they are reviewing. The results are extremely interesting.
These results are published on the site and a hit parade of the best tasted whiskies in this context is to be found on the following page: