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How to taste whiskey like a pro

Tasting whiskey is an art!

· Wine Culture

As one of the world’s most popular spirits, whiskey often appears in some important banquets in China. Knowing how to appreciate a glass of whiskey and a few whiskey-related facts definitely help in social situations.

Hint: not this way!

But do you really know how to taste a whiskey properly? This week, let's take you through three steps and some tips on how to properly taste whiskey!

First, look at it

The Glencairn glass is ideal for tasting whiskey

The color tells us a lot about whiskey. It has a variety of colors, ranging from light straw to dark amber. And where does whiskey get its color? The answer is from barrels... or caramel!

The first distilled liquor is actually transparent like vodka. It is the charred oak wood that gives whiskey its color. Basically, the longer whiskey is aged in the barrel, the darker it will be.

Caramel is another widely used coloring agent in cheaper whiskies. A small amount of caramel is added and occupies between 0.1%-0.5% of the total amount in spirits since the caramel color is quite deep.

Then, you sniff it

Smell is a key step in tasting. There are a variety of aroma types in whiskey, such as aromas of grain, fruits, herbs (primary aromas) or vanilla, toast, caramel (secondary aromas). Aromas in whiskey are produced by different raw materials and techniques and styles vary greatly.

It is also important to note that when smelling whiskey, just hold the glass close to your nose and gently let volatile aromas penetrate your nose. It is useless to inhale too hard, as you may get spoiled by the pungent alcohol.

A small tip is to add a few drops of room temperature mineral water. This will have the effect to enhance the flavours and will reduce the burning sensation from alcohol.

Finally, sip on it

Master Distiller Richard Paterson hosting a whisky dinner in London

When tasting whiskey, always start with a small sip, making sure the tip of the tongue is in contact with the first drops, letting the spirit reverberate in all parts of your mouth, moving it back and forth for 3-5 seconds before swallowing it. 

Matthieu showing you how to taste whiskey properly

The tasting process is not over when you swallow the whiskey. You need to slowly feel the aftertaste of the whiskey. Great whiskies have a long and complex finish.

Ice or no ice?

Many people may have a misconception that they should drink liquor with ice, and whiskey is no exception. But the best way to appreciate whiskey is to drink it straight, with no ice. 

The copita glass is also perfect for tasting whiskey

This is mainly because the ice melts and creates an additional diluting effect, which overly reduces the alcohol concentration and affects the taste and flavor of the whiskey itself. 

But is it really a taboo to taste whiskey “on the rocks”? The answer is not really! If you want it chilled, better use large ice balls or whiskey stones.

Ice balls melt more slowly and cools evenly. On the other hand, whiskey stones enable to chill the drink without leaving any water behind. Both are widely used in whiskey tasting.

In all, whiskey tasting can offer you a unique sense of ritual. You can perceive the exquisite experience in each step of whiskey tasting. Meanwhile, drinking whiskey can also be casual, you may as well throw out all the established rules and drink it as you like.

The tumbler is often the preferred glass for social drinking

Find a way that suits you, then go to the liquor cabinet, open a bottle of your favourite whiskey, and enjoy it with your loved ones!

Founded in 2018 by Matthieu Ventelon, Hedonia is the first institution in China combining professional Wine and Etiquette expertise in the same training offer.

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