How to Drink Whisky Properly – Complete Guide

Woman sniffing whisky from a Glencairn glass

Whisky is one of the most flavourful spirits across the world. If it is your favorite drink and you are looking for a new way to drink it, stop where you are. For some, there is only one real way to drink whisky. However, and in order to enjoy a dram, one should first learn how to drink whisky properly or as a connoisseur: neat!

Knowing how to drink whisky properly can significantly improve your whisky drinking experience. You taste new flavors, unlock new smells, and have an overall more enjoyable drinking experience.

This article will discuss what is the most ideal way to have a glass of whisky by exploring the best glasses and what steps you should follow in while tasting this spirit. It will also discuss several tips and tricks for enhancing whisky flavor so that you can make the most of your favorite dram.


Sipping this article:

  1. How to drink whisky properly?
    1. Whisky neat or on the rocks?
    2. Should you sip whisky, mix it or shoot it?
  2. The glass to drink whisky properly
    1. What are the best glass to drink whisky from?
    2. How to prepare the glass to drink Whisky
  3. Drink whisky properly – Step by step
  4. Recap


Person holding a glass of whisky

How do you drink whisky properly?

The best way to serve whisky is either neat or on the rocks in a whisky glass. This old-fashioned style way of drinking whisky provides a clean, crisp drinking experience.

Drinking whisky out of a Glencairn glass is the best way to have this spirit because the whisky has the opportunity to breathe and it provides the right shape to swirl it around and smell it. Glencairn glasses also allow the whisky’s aroma to seep out of the glass as you drink. The mixture of smells and flavors allows drinkers to enjoy every part of their whisky drinking experience.

The first step on “how to drink whisky properly” is drinking whisky neat. This means you sip the whisky without any ice, water or whisky stones. Although this is the connoisseurs way to drink it, there are whiskies that respond well to ice or water, since it might unlock their hidden aromas or flavours and become smoother. Other whiskies might not respond so well and become scentless.

Curious about Whisky Stones? Here’s what they are and the best ones to use:


Whisky neat or on the rocks?

Drinking whisky neat is typically better than drinking it on the rocks. If you know how to drink whisky properly, you are aware that drinking whisky neat has many advantages regarding tasting all the flavours and aromas.

As you’re tasting the spirit without any additives, you’re able to taste most of the flavours and smell the majority of aromas in their true form. However, it can be interesting to notice what happens when you add ice, water or whisky stones to the glass.

As said before, adding a chill element may unlock some hidden flavour and aroma notes. But it also may turn your whisky into a flavourless and scentless spirit.


Know What Scientific Studies Say About Having Whisky On The Rocks!


If you drink whisky with ice the whisky may become diluted as the ice melts. If it becomes too diluted, it will lose flavor, becoming less appealing as time passes. Yet, you can use whisky stones so that dfoesn’t happen and you can still have a chill dram. There are also people who add a splash of water to unlock some aromas, but only two or three drops.

Since whisky is a spirit curated for slow drinking, the ice may melt quicker than you drink. That is why most whisky drinkers will recommend drinking it neat to avoid dilution, especially if they are top-shelf.

Regarding how to drink whisky properly, you may have it either neat or on the rocks. The best way, however, is neat.
Regarding how to drink whisky properly, you may have it either neat or on the rocks. The best way, however, is neat.


Should you sip whisky, mix it, or shoot it?

Whisky is a sipping drink. That is the tradicional take on how to drink whisky properly. However, there are people who enjoy whisky in cocktails or as a shot. As whisky lovers, we do not recommend the last option, since you cannot notice anything but the burn of the alcohol. It will get you intoxicated and you do not get to enjoy the flavors or smell of the whisky as much.

Mixing whisky masks its flavor. Even if you can feel the taste of whisky, it is used to create something other than a spirit.

If you care about honouring your whisk, specially if it is a older expression, sip it and enjoy.


The right glass to drink whisky properly

Many whisky connoisseurs recommend finding a whisky glass that suits your drinking style. But with so many glasses, it can seem impossible to find the right one. Luckily, there are many shapes and styles to choose.

Whisky glencairn glasses are specially designed to hold perfect portion sizes for sipping and tasting whisky. The best whisky glasses are clear, so whisky drinkers can observe the colour of the spirit through their crystal glasses as they drink.

The most important features to consider in a whisky rocks glass are:

  • The glass is clear
  • It is easy to handle
  • The glass is sturdy
  • The size
  • There is space for garnishing

Other considerations can include glass thickness and other aesthetics, which are typically preferential.

Each type of whisky glass has its benefits for smelling, tasting, and drinking whisky. In most cases, whisky drinkers choose glasses based on aesthetics. Choosing a cup off aesthetics is great in some cases, but not for whisky cups. Whisky cups require careful consideration for things such as aeration or garnishing space.

In order to drink whisky whisky properly, you should choose a glass with a foot, identical to the glasses used for aperitifs. This way, you can grab the glass without increasing the whisky temperature. For the same reason, we do not recommend you use a balloon glass for whisky, because it will easily raise its temperature, tampering with it the flavor. This change occurs due to volatilization of alcohol, which will disguise their main aromas and flavours.

On how to drink whisky properly, it is important to choose the right glass


What are the best glass to drink whisky from?

Generally, choosing the shape of your whisky glass is preferential. The traditional square whisky glass has been used since whisky was originally crafted. This square whisky tumbler is outdated for some people, whereas others obsess over the traditional design.

Modern and innovative designs like the twisted cup and stemmed base make choosing whisky glasses more exciting than ever. While most people choose their tumblers based on aesthetics, there are benefits and drawbacks to each shape. Before investing in a set of expensive rocks glasses, for example, it is worth considering the pros and cons of each option.


Glencairn Glass

For many years, Whisky didn’t had an official glass, such as Champagne or Brandy, Glencairn Crystal tried to sort this flaw and created the official whisky glass, in 2001. After many years of perfecting the glass, now you can find it in the main distilleries in Scotland, Ireland or Wales, as well as across the USA.

This glass was created with the help of master blenders, since they are the people who need to be tasting whisky day after day. So, taking in consideration the nosing glasses that they used, the glencairn glass was brought to life.


Our Whisky Subscription Box may contain a Glencairn Glass! Check out all details:


Fistly, this glass has a foot, which allows one to hold it without heating the whisky between their hands. The wide bottom that taper until the mouth is perfect for observing the whisky colour and to swirl the spirit around without any spilling. Furthermore, the thiner mouth allows you to sniff all the aroma notes as well as sipping the whisky effortlessly.

The right glass to drink whisky properly is the glencairn glass
The right glass to drink whisky properly is the glencairn glass, since it was made specifically for whisky with the help of master blenders.


The Tumblers

The square whisky glass is the most common type of whisky glass. In addition to being the traditional whisky glass, this square shape is drinker-friendly and great for adding additional ingredients like ice, garnishes, or other beverages. Square whisky glasses are airy, which makes them good for letting whisky breathe.

While the square glass is considered a trademark whisky tumbler, some people may consider the appearance of these glasses outdated.

Cylinder tumblers, on the other hand, are a less traditional design that is becoming more popular. Drinking whisky from cylindrical glasses is great for letting the whisky breathe. The shape of the glass is also uniform and sleek.

Unfortunately, there is very little difference between these glasses and other cocktail glasses. At some restaurants and bars, bartenders use these glasses interchangeably for whisky and mixed drinks.


Bowl Shaped Glass

A circular-shaped rocks glass is eye-catching. The futuristic design is unique and innovative. However, they can be difficult to sip because of the strange design.

Circular glasses have a very difficult time holding garnishes like oranges. Circle-shaped glasses also make it difficult for the whisky to get a good breath of air. Air cannot circulate inside the cup when shaped like a bowl.

Two bowl-shaped whisky glasses with a decanter and grapes


Twisted Glasses

Twist glasses are abstract, eye-catching glasses. Twisting whisky glasses are either square or cylindrical at the base, and then they slowly twist as they move to the top. The twisting design is one of the most unique whisky glasses on the market. However, there is generally nothing special about these glasses aside from their appearances.

Some whisky drinkers dislike these glasses because of their spillage. Unless you are using a straw to sip whisky (which is is not the way to drink whisky properly), you are very likely to spill on yourself. Twisting glasses also have difficulty holding garnishes like fruit.


Stem Glasses

Stem glasses look similar to other old-fashioned glasses aside from the stem at the base. They are an uncommon type of whisky glass. However, they prevent the whisky to get heated, which is why some people favor them over others. By holding a drink at its stem, you limit the amount of body heat transferred into the glass.


How to prepare the glass to drink Whisky

The glass preparation is as important as its choice. Prepare the glass as follows:

  • Put a little whisky in the glass and let stand a while at room temperature;
  • Then jiggle the glass with the whisky inside as it spreads throughout the glass;
  • Finally, pour the glass and make sure that the cup rim is clean.
  • The glass is now ready to the whisky of your choosing.

Man sipping whisky from a tumbler glass


How to Drink Whisky Properly – Step by Step

Now that you have chosen the right glass for you, it’s time to learn how to drink whisky properly, step by step:


1. Swirl the Whisky

To observe the colour of whisky is an important step when tasting an expression for the first time. The swirl will tell you a lot about the colour, but about the texture of the whisky as well: if it is watery or more like a liqueur. And, by that, you can realize the time a whisky has spent in barrel. Usually, a a darker and liqueur-like whisky has spent more years aging than a light-colour, watery expression.

If you smudge the whisky around and then it takes some time to drip down the glass, it means that it’s more viscous. The darker the whisky, the more aged it is and your drink may turn out to be light gold or maybe deep brown and from this, it just signifies how aged the whisky is.


2. Sniff the Whisky

When learning how to drink whisky properly, trying to sniff your whisky like it’s a glass of wine will make you feel woozy since whisky has a higher alcohol content than the latter. Just swirl your whisky around a little and then keenly whiff the aroma at the top of your glass.

During the sniffing exercise don’t go looking for any one scent. The Olfactory system is nostalgic, so if you think of various memories, you might get different scents and vice versa. For a better understanding, you need to smell the whisky more than once since the whisky’s nose will change with each sniff.

Woman sniffing whisky from a Glencairn glass


3. Taste the Whisky

Only when you think that you have sniffed the whisky more than enough, it is when you can taste the whisky. Take a very small sniff and then pucker your lips into an O-shape. Then gently move your tongue to your lips and suck in air. What you are doing by this time is gargling the whisky.

A warning is that the first few times you do this you might gag and the strength of the whisky is the big factor to this. Again, don’t look for a specific taste, just try to passively observe the tastes you are picking up on. After you think that you have had a good taste of your whisky, now you can swallow it. The burning sensation you are picking up on is called the finish. Is it long, pleasant, icky or short? Take note of all that.



Knowing how to drink whisky properly is important for any whisky lover. Drinking with the right glass can severely impact the flavor and experience of your whisky drinking experience. The way you drink whisky is also a major influence on how to drink whisky properly.

Serving whisky in rocks cups is the only way to drink whisky properly. Traditional whisky glasses give liquor drinkers the chance to enjoy the crisp flavor of whisky. Traditional whisky glasses are the perfect portion size. They are great for showcasing the flavor, smell, and color of the whisky.

Many whisky lovers recommend that people drink from square glasses. In addition to being the traditionally-shaped whisky glass, this rocks glass is the best for letting whisky breathe. It is also great for holding ice and garnishes. Ultimately, the shape and type of glass are entirely preferential.



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