Tasting Guide

You can download a tasting guide for your tasting at home here.

The Correct Tasting of Whisky

The first thing is to choose a suitable glass. It should optimally transfer the aroma to our taste buds in nose and mouth. In addition to the right tasting method, the right mood is also important. It has a significant influence on our sensations. For advanced connoisseurs, there is also the question of whether and how whisky should be diluted at cask strength.


The first thing is to choose a suitable glass. It should optimally transfer the aroma to our taste buds in nose and mouth. In addition to the right tasting method, the right mood is also important. It has a significant influence on our sensations. For advanced connoisseurs, there is also the question of whether and how whisky should be diluted at cask strength.

The most important feature of a good whisky glass is therefore a bulbous shape that tapers towards the top. You will also find this shape in other drinks such as wine or cognac. This allows the aroma of the whisky to collect in the belly of the glass and be absorbed more intensively into the nose via the narrow opening.


When the whisky flows into the mouth through a narrow opening, it quickly shoots to the back of the tongue. There we taste mainly bitter notes that can cloud the first impression of the malt. A glass with a lip that curves outwards is ideal. This allows the whisky to be tasted slowly at the front of the palate first. In this way, the often bitter notes of the oak are only perceived when swallowing.

A whisky tasting glass should be thin-walled to be able to absorb the warmth of the hand. Because: the colder a drink, the fewer aromas we smell. Therefore, it is sometimes necessary to warm up the whisky a little - by hand. But in order to control the transfer of heat from our hand to the glass, the glass needs a stem. If you hold a tumbler in your hand for a long time, the whisky can become relatively warm. Alternatively, of course, you can simply put the tumbler down.


The size of the glass may vary depending on the whisky tasted. Whiskies with a delicate aroma are better enjoyed in smaller glasses. Strong and/or smoky whiskies are better enjoyed in larger glasses.


We usually taste our beloved malts not only with our taste buds, but also with our eyes. A beautiful colour automatically suggests a "venerable" age and thus a great aroma. Crystal glasses with a higher surface quality make whiskies shine and glow especially brightly. If you want to avoid this optical influence, however, there are special blue glasses. They disguise the whisky colour and thus allow an independent assessment in terms of colour.


Mood and Environment

When we drink whisky, we should do so for the right occasion. Frustration, worries and fears cannot be solved or drunk away with alcohol. If you get used to such drinking behaviour, an addiction quickly develops. Therefore, only enjoy high-quality whisky when you want to reward yourself positively or with the aim of tasting it very consciously. Also make sure that the amount you drink is appropriate for your health! You will also notice: If you drink whisky every day, you will soon no longer be able to really enjoy the highest-quality bottling.

Our mood has a major influence on our taste sensations. If you want to fully evaluate a whisky, you should taste it on different days at different times. The second or third time a whisky is tasted, it can reveal surprisingly different aromas and nuances of taste. The place where we enjoy it also contributes to our impression. A special malt, tasted with friends in a cosy bar or even in the distillery on the spot, can taste completely different at home. Our taste sensations connect with the emotions we felt in that particular situation. The professional blenders in the distilleries therefore taste the casks all in the same way, if possible, so that they avoid unnecessary influences.

To accurately perceive the flavours of a whisky, you don't drink it with food or immediately afterwards. Depending on when and what you ate or drank before enjoying the whisky, a residual taste will remain in your mouth. Spicy food just before a whisky tasting is taboo anyway. But your stomach doesn't have to growl. Just check that you have a neutral mouthfeel.

Tasting Method - Four Steps to Enjoyment

As already mentioned, flavours only develop at a sufficient temperature. Ice-cooled whisky therefore only tastes of alcohol. In addition, the frosty temperatures "shock" your entire tasting organism by literally freezing it. And last but not least, the ice dilutes the whisky when it melts. It is thus unintentionally diluted. Therefore, enjoy your whisky at room temperature.


First look at the colour of the whisky by holding the glass up to the (day) light. You will notice a glow and sparkle. Now hold the glass in a slightly horizontal position and turn it around its own longitudinal axis. Then tilt it back to the vertical position and look closely: you will see streaks or "tears" on the inside of the glass wall, called "legs" in English. This effect is related to the viscosity, the viscosity, of the whisky liquid. These streaks are widest and correspondingly slowest to run back towards the glass contents at alcohol strengths between 43 and 48 per cent. The oils in the distillate also have an effect on this: the more oils in the distillate, the more streaks or tears appear on the glass wall. They usually bring with them a thicker, fuller mouthfeel, which is also called body or "mouth feel" in English.


In principle, the first step in tasting is extensive nosing, or smelling. People have about a thousand times more taste receptors in their nose than on their tongue. Take your time. Carefully bring the glass up to your nose so as not to be surprised by the sharp alcohol. Inhale gently and then exhale. Now swirl the glass so that the contents are circling and smell again. You will notice that more and more new aromas appear and rise to your nose.

You can also shake the glass more violently, covering it with your hand so that beads and bubbles form in and on the whisky (the more beads on the rim of the liquid, the higher the alcohol content). In addition, smell the palm of your hand with which you had covered the glass. In combination with the warm skin, new smells will appear again. You can also try this by rubbing a few drops of whisky between both palms.

Keep in mind that - depending on your disposition and the shape of the day (or time of day) - both nostrils never smell equally intense! Usually one nostril is also smaller than the other. So breathe in alternatively with them.


When you feel you have got a good impression of the whisky from the nosing, the tasting begins. Let the liquid run slowly over your tongue. Remember that the different parts of your tongue taste the different flavours: at the front tends to be sweet, in the middle more salty and sour, at the back bitter. Spiciness, on the other hand, numbs - above a certain intensity - the taste sensors of the tongue. Avoid at all costs simply letting the whisky run down your throat. The pleasure increases considerably anyway if you rinse the whisky around in your mouth. Then all areas of the mouth, including the underside of the tongue, the palate and the inside of the lips, contribute to the taste experience.

And you get a feeling for the texture of the whisky, i.e. its density, viscosity, (thick) liquid. Different whiskies trigger different mouthfeel: Sherry cask-aged single cask bottlings or older, high-proof bourbons - e.g. the various small batch bottlings - are fuller-bodied, "thicker" than, say, a young Lowland single malt from ex-bourbon casks. Whiskies that tend to taste sweet also stimulate the flow of saliva. With time, you will also be able to taste whether the distillate in question is basically dry or sweet or even a little salty - not to mention clear tendencies such as sherry, port or peat smoke influences.

Remember: single malt whisky is not a simple clear spirit, but a complex and almost artfully produced drink. So take as much time as possible when nosing and drinking. And repeat. When you sip again after the first time, the aromas no longer come only from the front = through the nose, but also from the back of the throat and the palate. When you drink again, the complexity of the whisky and your intensified sensory perception increase together to even more pleasure.


What happens after the nosing and tasting is also part of the full whisky enjoyment. Where does it get warm, where (too) sharp? Does it burn in your oesophagus and / or stomach, so that you can't taste anything at first? Or is a pleasant warmth spreading through your mouth? There are still new things happening in terms of taste. Do you still taste sweetness from the whisky at the front of the tongue, or does dryness or even bitterness (e.g. oak influence) predominate further back in the throat? And how does the smoke - if present - develop? Does it soon retreat or does it linger for a long time?

If you don't initially discover all the flavours from the whisky's taste description, we can reassure you. Everybody tastes differently. Moreover, the nose of most people is rather untrained. We perceive the world mainly with our eyes. The more whiskies you taste, the more your nose will learn to recognise familiar aromas.

Dilute Whisky?

Diluting whisky with water before smelling and/or drinking it is a matter of taste. Some are absolute advocates - including many who deal with whisky professionally - while others consistently reject it.

The point: in addition to bottlings at drinking strength (40 - 46 %), there are also bottlings with a higher alcohol content. The reduction of the high alcohol content is supposed to reduce sharpness when smelling and tasting whisky. This is because sharpness numbs the taste receptors and thus sometimes diminishes unrestricted enjoyment (just like ice in whisky).

Some advocates of dilution believe that you only need to add water to really high-proof whiskies with more than 50 % alcohol content. Others, on the other hand, claim that every whisky only really comes into its own in the mouth when it lands there with no more than 20 % - this is the ideal drinking strength for perfect enjoyment. Still others are firmly convinced that a few drops of water are always ideal.

Ultimately, each connoisseur must try out and experiment for themselves: with the amount of water added, whether the water is drizzled gently into the glass or poured in, whether the glass is then barely moved or shaken wildly. Some people literally inject the water with a pipette so that the mixing of the two liquids is particularly effective.

However, despite all the joy of experimentation, there are a few basic rules that should be followed. For example, no carbonated water. This has too much flavour of its own and also brings unrest into the glass. It is better to drink normal tap water that is not too chalky or a good still mineral water such as Evian or Vittel. Be careful with it. But always bear in mind that whisky with more than 50 % alcohol strength often has a numbing effect on the taste receptors. Glasses with graduations also help you when diluting; then you can better estimate how much water you want to add.

Attention, Bleak Prospects

Some whiskies become cloudy or opaque when diluted with water - in English this is called cloudy, or haze. This only affects whiskies that have not been chill-filtered. These contain certain substances (including esters, phenols, tannins, aldehydes, etc.), which on the one hand are considered aroma and flavour carriers and are therefore supposed to intensify the smell, taste and mouthfeel of the whisky, but on the other hand are responsible for the cloudiness when the whisky is diluted with water or strongly cooled. The effect is reversible, i.e. the whisky becomes clear again at room temperature at the latest, as well as when it is no longer diluted. This is not a quality defect and does not affect the taste! However, it can surprise inexperienced connoisseurs.

To prevent this clouding from occurring in the first place during dilution and/or cooling, many producers filter out the substances mentioned, cooling the whisky down considerably beforehand (chill filtering). Whether whisky that has not been chill-filtered smells and tastes better than filtered whisky is, according to our research, more a philosophical than a technological question. Don't let your Lagavulin 16 years or your Bowmore Darkest put you off just because they are cold-filtered - the producers already know why they spend money, time and personnel, precisely in order to filter!

The Last Word in Wisdom?

You will never find it when tasting whisky because it doesn't exist. Practice undoubtedly helps with the enjoyable smelling and tasting. But there are so many nuances and details to sense that you will discover something new every time - which will not correct your previous impressions at all, but complement them! Experiment in this wonderful field without inhibitions and restrictions - any constraint and prescription is ultimately unnecessary. Consider the knowledge gathered here as suggestions from connoisseurs for connoisseurs - but enjoy your whisky as you like. Slánte!