How does one go about appreciating whisky? I for one had very little insight not too long ago. Having started this blog and more seriously taken to the hobby of enjoying whisky, I share my education with you here. You will definitely challenge some of these notions, likely you will find variations on themes that work best for you, and that’s fine since there is no one way to embibe.
First, I’ll choose my whisky. Depending on mood, I already know if I want something peaty, sweet, spicy, fruity, balanced, etc.
Normally, I will choose a glass with a slightly curved lip in order to trap the aromas and concentrate them. You could use a typical rocks glass of you’re so inclined, but the curved glasses enhance the experience. Try a snifter if you don’t have a nice whisky glass.
Pour in your chosen whisky and hold the glass up against the light. Appreciate the colour and body of the whisky. Try to verbalize what you’re seeing. Describe it to yourself. Swirl it around in your glass, let it aerate. Watch the legs as they run down the sides of the glass.
Next, put your nose into the glass and take in the aroma. Keep your mouth open while you do so, it somehow keeps it from burning. The first sniff will get you accustomed to the alcohol. Take another smell, now it should be softer. A third smell should help you identify the components htting your nose. Again, make an effort to describe these. It may be orange peels, spice, cinnamon, whatever it is take the time to figure them out and make sense of them.
Taste the whisky when you feel you have appreciated the nose. Take in enough to cover your entire tongue. Chew it slightly and let it sit. What are you tasting? Is it similar to the nose? Are there new impressions you weren’t expecting? Think these through. There could be some spice in there, maybe vanilla, possibly apple, smoke, or nut to name a few. There are so many varieties with so many profiles, you will be amazed.
Finally assess the finish. Is the aftertaste gone quickly or does it linger? What flavours are lingering? Which are passing through quickly? Is it dry? Sweet?
Add some water next. I would say always add a few drops of cold water to your whisky, but on a first tasting I like to have it straight to determine how the water is affecting the flavour. Go through the same steps, you’ll identify some changes. I don’t like ice in my whisky, unless it’s a particularly strong or harsh bourbon. When adding water, a little hit: the stronger the whisky, the more you can dilute it. Dilute to taste however, I hate to give guidelines on this since it’s such a personal thing.
I hope this helps in enhancing your experience. Good whisky can be ever better if you give it every opportunity to reveal its complexities. These steps should help you get there.