Different Ways of Tasting Whisky

Two glencairn glasses with whisky between a candle

Whisky is a full-flavored beverage and definitly worth tasting. Tasting whisky is not rocket science, but it has more to know than you might expect. From tasting whisky neat to whisky on the rocks, this article will help detect aromas and flavour notes.


Table of Contents – Sip this article!

  1. Different Ways of Tasting Whisky
      1. How to Taste Whisky – Step by Step
      2. How to Drink Whisky
        1. Whisky Neat
        2. Whisky on the Rocks
        3. Whisky Cocktails
      3. Glassware
  2. Final Thoughts


The Different Ways of Tasting Whisky

How to Taste Whisky Step by Step

Whisky is a fermented grain spirit and it sits in a barrel to age for at least 3 years, depending on the type. Whisky will get different flavors and tones depending on the type of barrel and how long the whisky was maturing in the barrel. Other flavours can get infused into the whisky through infusion processes that can also contribute to the aroma and flavour.


Wondering which flavours you might find in a whisky expression? Check out this Guide for a Whisky Tasting!


If you’re thinking on how to host a whisky tasting or how to taste it by yourself, here’s a guide to follow step by step:


1. Swirl and observe

While letting the whisky breath a little bit, observe the spirit’s colour. It tells you a lot about age and also the barrels it sitted in for maturation. The older the whisky, the darker it gets and Oloroso Sherry Casks are known for giving the whisky a darker colour as well.

At this stage, you can also swirl and observe the tears to notice its consistency and shake the whisky to observe the bubbles. This last tip will give you information about the alcoholic volume of the spirit. The more the bubbles linger in the glass (or bottle) the more alcoholic content the whisky have.

Woman looking to a whisky glass to tasting whisky


2. Smell the Whisky

Have in mind that whisky have a lot of alcohol and, depending on the whisky expression, it might more proeminent or not. The trick here is to lightly sniff it, while keeping your mouth open. That way you’ll be able to smell the whisky aromas without the burning feeling.

The more you sniff the whisky and let it breath, the more aromas you will unveil. So, don’t rush this step.


3. Taste the Whisky

Have a small sip of your dram and try to identify some of the flavours and consistency. The flavours appear as long as you drink the whisky, don’t worry if it takes more time to identify them all. Having a small sip first is important to avoid getting the flavours overpowered by the alcohol.

Before swallowing the whisky, let it roll around your mouth. This way, your tongue will notice the flavours much better.

After having your dram properly tasted, you might want to taste it on the rocks, with a few drops of water.

There are different ways to drink whisky and they all are valid, as long as you enjoy your whisky.

Man in a whisky tasting looking at a whisky glass


How to Drink Whisky

First of all, you are going to want to decide whether you like it neat or on the rocks. Both have perks and enhance different aspects of the whisky.

Whisky can be overpowered by ice, but it really depends on the expression itself. Some flavours might be unlocked while other will get hidden. Try the whisky neat and on the rocks at least once to try to get the best flavor profile out of it.


Whisky Neat

Whisky neat is whisky in the glass, nothing else involved. It might be the simplest way to have a whisky. Whisky neat is usually preferred by those who like the taste of alcohol. It is a potent drink and is the style of drinking whisky where the drinker has a fuller flavor experience.

However, some folks put a few drops of water in their whisky to reduce the burning sensation but keep the flavor untouched. Adding a drop or two of water can release more of the aroma of the whisky, making the tasting experience more complete.


Whisky on the Rocks

Whisky on the rocks is a fairly standard drink, but it might not be the best way to drink your whisky. The cold beverage is refreshing and appealing to most, but the ice numbs your taste buds. That means you do not get all the flavors on your tongue.

Folks who like whisky on the rocks use an ice ball or ice cube that is about 1.5 to 2 inches big. If you use ice, you should use one big ball or cube instead of smaller chips of cubes. Smaller pieces of ice will melt much faster and water down your drink.

Some people like to use whisky stones that are chilled so that the alcohol gets cooler without dilution!

Whisky stones are a great way to chill your whisky without the risk of watering your dram
Whisky stones are a great way to chill your whisky without the risk of watering your dram


Whisky Cocktails

You could use your Whisky Flavour attesting box in a cocktail right off the bat, but we suggest that you taste the whisky before you begin to mix it into a cocktail so that you understand where the flavors are. Once you know where the flavors are coming from, you can build a cocktail that expresses those tones best.

Here’s 5 recipes of a Whisky Sour!



The glass that you drink your whisky out of is incredibly important. The best glass that you could drink whisky out of for a tasting is a Glencairn glass.

A Glencairn whisky glass is bulbous at the bottom and narrows at the top. This way, the aroma of the whisky is caught in the bulbous section and released as you sip, so you are smelling and tasting the flavors.

The aroma is a huge part of tasting whisky, so the Glencairn glass is a classic option.

A candle between two glencairn glasses with whisky


Final Notes

When it comes to tasting whisky and you’re drinking your glass, give your attention to what the bottle says about the flavors. Try to identify how they play together in your mouth. Pay attention to what the information tells you about the tones and what foods pair well with a certain whisky expression.

Happy tastings !

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