First of all “ what is whiskey?”
Whiskey is a distilled alcoholic beverage made from fermented grain mash. Various grains are used such as barley, corn, rye and wheat. Whisky is aged in wooden casks typically made from charred white oak. They can be distilled once or many times. Scotch is distilled as many as 20 times. Whiskeys are often blended to augment and alter flavor. Scotch whiskey hails from Scotland, bourbon from Kentucky. Scotch is made from malted barley and bourbon from corn. Tennessee whiskey is bourbon filtered through sugar maple charcoal. Confused? Let’s just taste.
How to taste whiskey?
Use a snifter, a tall glass with a narrow opening which concentrates and traps the aromas. Some tastings put a glass plate on top of the glass to further concentrate the aromas.
Swirl the whiskey in the glass to release the aromas. Let the whiskey settle in the glass. Your first sniff will likely smell strongly of alcohol. Leisurely, sniff a second, third and fourth time. Your nose should adjust to the strength of the spirit and you should be able to begin detecting the various aromas and flavors.
Take a sip. Swirl it around in your mouth.Pucker your mouth, make an “O” and breathe in. You may get a moment of alcoholic burn. This is the sensation that may put off novice tasters. As it passes you will begin to taste the flavors of the spirit. Everyone is different. There is no right or wrong.
Drink slowly. This is not a “shot”. Swirl and savor. Are the flavors subtle? Can you relate them to flavors with which you are familiar? You may taste nutty, fruity, floral, chocolate, spices, smoke or a hundred other flavors.
Should I add water or ice?
I recommend trying to taste without water or ice at first. Add water as you go as it can release flavors and complexity. Ice lowers the temperature and may inhibit some flavors. Drink plain water between tasting different whiskeys.