Whisky tasting is an analysis of whisky through a variety of senses. It may be through a visual examination, through taste and aroma (eyes, mouth and nose – 3 of our biggest senses). Normally, this is conducted by a group of people as a social event or an activity.
Some people as professionals in this matter. This means that this might be their official profession where they travel all around the world to taste new whiskeys. Their feedback will probably have an impact on the yearly awards, promoting the whiskeys in their own platforms.
The selection of glasses are an important part in the whole process. This is the most important accessories when we are under a serious whisky tasting.
The least appropriate glass is the traditional tumbler. This is because of its large mouth, which allows the dissipation of the fumes and its grip, which promotes the warming of the whisky.
Normally, as an industry standard the glasses used in whisky tasting are the tulip-shaped with a stem. You might know these as the sherry glasses or the copita. Another well-accepted glass is the Glencairn whisky glass.
You might even find glasses that are more specialized. They might include a lid in order to retain the aromas.
The tasting notes are normally separated into notes of the nose, palate and finish. These notes might be emotional or straightforward. This means that an emotional note will probably remind the taster of leather, wood, tobacco, etc. The more straightforward notes might include vanilla aromas, sweetness, ginger, etc.
Note however, that no two noses are the same. One person might be more sensitive to certain aromas while the other might not even notice them. This is called nose-blindness, which is why normally there is a panel of at least three judges.
The first step to a whisky tasting is the visual analysis. The glass must be held at 45 degrees, normally against a white background. The colour of the whisky is directly correlated with the cask (European Oak for more bold colour and American White oak for a lighter colour). Note however, that a light colour might also mean that the cask was used more than once.
In order to analyse this step, the whisky is sniffed. You should start with the nose above the rim and slowly deeper into the glass in order to catch the full aromas. You should not put your nose far into the glass as you may inhale fumes and feel a slight burn.
Through this method, the taster will understand the true strength of the whisky.
In this step, the whisky is tasted- You should, at first that a small sip and slowly increase its volume. If you swirl the whisky around the tongue more aromas will come through. The taster will also feel the texture of the whisky analysing in depth the flavours and scents.
The tongue will only recognize four aromas: salt, sweet, sour and bitter. The true aromas will be picked at the back of the nasal passage.
After the previous step, you will feel the flavours lingering in your mouth. These are the finish notes, as the flavours will decay in the mouth slowly.