How to taste whisky
Since tasting a whisky is an art, here are some tips for a tasting by the book!
1. Choose your whisky: Start by choosing the type of whisky you want to taste. Whether you opt for a Scotch or a Japanese whisky, an Irish whiskey or a Bourbon, each of them will offer you a unique tasting experience, with its own aromas and flavours that not everyone will perceive from the same way or on the same scale. As they say, there is nothing more subjective than tasting a whisky!
2. Choose your glass: For optimal tasting, use a tulip-shaped glass, which will allow the aromas to be concentrated in the lower part of the glass. For the pleasure of the eyes, opt for a Tuath glass, with its very particular shape and its uniquely designed foot.
3. Pour in the whisky: First make sure the whisky is at room temperature. If this is not the case, it is recommended not to add ice cubes (the cold of which dilutes the aromas and "anaesthetizes" the taste buds) but rather to opt for whisky stones. Pour a small amount of whisky into the glass, about 30ml to start. Take care to hold your glass well by the stem so as not to heat it, but also to have an optimal view of the precious liquid.
4. Observe the colour: Look carefully at the colour of the whisky by holding it against a light source. Colours range from light gold to dark copper. If you look carefully, the colour and reflections of the whisky will already give you some indications of its maturation: its colour is pale, it has probably aged in traditional barrels (Bourbon for example), if very dark it has probably been matured in Sherry casks. Swirl the whisky in your glass, you will see "tears" coating the walls. The longer they stick, the oilier the whisky and, generally, the better.
5. Smell the whisky: Hold the glass to your nose and breathe gently. The aromas that emerge from your glass will give you clues about the flavours you can expect from the whisky when tasting. Take the time to explore the different notes that emerge, such as fruits, spices, smoke, etc. Take the glass away from your nose and smell it again, placing it at a different height than before.
6. The first sip: Take a first sip, keep it in your mouth for a few seconds before swallowing. This will allow the whisky to warm your mouth and appreciate all of its flavours. Roll it in your mouth, take the time to discover all the flavour notes that open up to you, try to identify them and put your impressions into words.
7. The second sip: Take a second sip, but this time add a few drops of water to release new flavours and aromas (prefer mineral water). You can also chew the whisky lightly before swallowing it to enjoy all the flavours. Analyse what you feel between each sip, you will thus realize the evolution between the attack on the palate, the mid-palate and the finish.
8. Retro-olfaction: At the end of the tasting, take the time to smell your empty glass. You will find there the "heaviest" aromas, those that you had not necessarily felt in the mouth and that you can try to find during your next tasting.
But above all, remember that the best way to taste a whisky will be first and foremost yours.
Article written by Camille L.