A Guide to Scotch Whisky Tasting
Lifestyle Tips from The Lodge . . .
Tasting Scotch Whisky is an experience involving all five senses. And to help compare different whiskies, there are some general steps that can be followed.
Select a suitable glass
A tulip-shaped glass will help to compare different whiskies by trapping the aromas in the bottom and releasing them in the small area at the top of the glass. Whisky is also often enjoyed from a tumbler, particularly if drunk with water or as a long drink.
Use your eyes
Hold up the glass up against a neutral background. What you see is important, as colour can give clues about the age of the whisky and the type of cask used for maturation.
New-make spirit prior to maturation is as clear as water. After years maturing in the cask, however, it can be a much darker colour. The colour comes from the whisky sitting in the cask over years, ebbing and flowing in and out of the wood.
Check the legs
Swirl the whisky around the glass, coating its sides thoroughly. Then wait and watch, as the liquid runs back down the side of the glass, the "legs" of the whisky.
If the "legs" are thin and run quickly, then it may be a younger or lighter whisky. If the "legs" are slow and thick, then it may be a heavier or older whisky.
Nose Feel of the Scotch
This describes the tingle you get at the back of your nose when you sniff Scotch. The sensation is often described as a mere prickle while more pungent spirits can result in a sense of nose burning. Confirm your assumptions and discover more about the dram using your nose. Indeed, a master distiller will use his nose alone to make judgements about a whisky.
Aroma of the Scotch
Swirl scotch in a glass and sniff it carefully. In many cases, the aromatics are 'closed' until water is added. Don't worry if it proves difficult to describe the aroma - scientists have discovered a wide range of flavours in whisky and different people will pick up different aromas. With a little practice, it becomes easier.
Add some water
After 'nosing' the whisky, try adding a little still water, sniff again. The water will reduce the alcohol content, and raises the temperature slightly releasing more of the whisky's flavours - and you will see this happening in your glass. Evaluate its intensity and complexity. Continue to add water to the scotch, little by little until any nose prickle has disappeared. Nose first over the top of the glass to catch the bouquet, then again below the rim to capture its depth of character. Now write down the first descriptors that come to mind of your experience with the scotch.
Now, Finally, Mouth Feel (taste) of the Scotch
Take a sip large enough to coat your tongue and the sides of your mouth. You might pick out different flavours to those you were aware of using your nose. Roll the spirit around so that it comes into contact with all your taste buds, sweetness at the tip of the tongue, saltiness along the sides, dryness and bitterness at the back. What is the intensity and texture of the scotch? Is it mouth-coating, mouth-warming or mouth-furring?
Primary Taste of the Scotch
Take another sip of the scotch. What is the balance of sweetness and saltiness? How sour is it? Is it creamy or dry? You will probably experience all of the primary tastes from the scotch. What are the proportions?
Overall Flavor of the Scotch
The mark of a good scotch whisky is a good balance. The flavor should match or surpass the promise held in its aroma. A sweet-smelling scotch whisky that tastes too dry will disappoint. Note the flavors you identify immediately!
Finish of the Scotch
This refers to the length of time the flavor of the scotch whisky remains after swallowing, how pleasant it is and what develops or changes in the mouth. Generally speaking, the longer the finish, the more interesting the flavor of the scotch.
As the wonderful flavors develop, unfolding in the mouth, ask yourself what flavors you are experiencing and how the whisky feels in your mouth. Does the flavour last a long time or does it disappear quickly?
So what did you taste?
There is no right or wrong answer to this question. Everyone and every whisky is different. That is why tasting Scotch Whisky is such an enjoyable and rewarding individual experience.
Always be responsible.
Lastly, and perhaps most important, remember when tasting different whiskies, to always do so responsibly. Scotch Whisky is a drink to be sipped and savored.