How to Taste Whiskey Like a Pro

You might be an avid whiskey drinker, but do you know how to truly evaluate and appreciate it? Find out how to taste whiskey like a pro with these tips.

Similar to wine tasting, knowing how to taste whiskey is an art form. 

Whether you’re sipping at home or visiting a distillery, there are a few techniques to keep in mind.

From choosing the right glass to savoring the color, flavor, and smell, tasting whiskey is an experience for all of your senses. 

Ready to learn the dos and don’ts of whiskey tasting? Grab your sifter and let’s get started.

The Right Glass

The art of tasting whiskey requires a certain type of glass. Ditch the Solo cup and opt for a glass with a bulbous bottom.

A snifter glass is similar to a wine glass but much larger on the bottom and narrow at the top. The large base is ideal for swirling whiskey. The narrow top helps trap the aromas.

If you’re taking a whiskey tour, the venue will provide the proper glassware. Tasting whiskey at home? A traditional wine glass will do.

The Nose Knows

Before you touch any whiskey to your lips, you need to give it a sniff. Avoid sticking your entire nose into the top of the glass and taking a deep inhale. This will overwhelm your senses due to the high alcohol content.

All alcohol is measured using ABV – alcohol by volume. The ABV of whiskey is two times the proof. For example, a whiskey that is 35% ABV is 75 proof.

Instead, use the large base to slowly swirl the whiskey around, releasing the aromas. Gently sniff at the top of the glass.

You’re not looking for any one scent in particular. Simply let the aromas fill your nose and see what feelings it triggers.

Not getting an overwhelming sense? Take your time and take another whiff. 

After swirling, let the whiskey rest and repeat the process.

Observe the Color

As you’re swirling and sniffing the whiskey, observe it’s color and texture. As the whiskey slides down the side of the glass between swirls, does it stick to the outer edges?

If so, it means the whiskey is more viscous – or thicker and stickier. 

The color of the whiskey also tells you a lot about the quality, taste, and strength. Hold the glass up to the light to get a better look.

Whiskey can range in color from a deep, nut-like brown to a lighter, gold color. Darker whiskey boasts a more concentrated flavor.

How to Taste Whiskey

You’ve swirled it, you’ve smelled it, and you’ve given it the once over. Now, the time has finally come to taste the whiskey.

Instead of downing it in one gulp, you need to slowly sip it. When learning how to drink whiskey, remember that less is more.

To experience the full flavor, take a very small amount into your mouth – but don’t swallow! Give your pallet a chance to adjust and recognize the flavors and alcohol content.

Try sipping with tightly pursed lips in the shape of an ‘O’. Push your tongue to your lips and suck in gently. This process is similar to gargling and may take some getting used to.

If you’re new to whiskey tasting you may gag the first few times you sip. This is completely normal! As you build up a tolerance to the alcohol, this will happen less and less.

When you’re satisfied, swallow. You’ll feel the warm alcohol burn as it goes down your throat. This is called the finish.

When you’re ready, take another small, slow sip. 

Sip and Enjoy!

Now that you know how to taste whiskey, you can share your expertise with friends and family. Explain the purpose of the sifter glass, sniffing the whiskey, and taking small sips.

Before you know it you’ll be a whiskey connoisseur!

Looking to taste whiskeys of the world? Check out our travel page and visit our blog regularly for new posts on fun and exciting adventures!