Whiskey is certainly an acquired taste. And, as with any new addition to your palate, you may want to try a few different brands or types of whiskey before you decide on which is your favorite. Some say aged and bottled-in-bond whiskeys are the best. Others say Irish whiskies are the best all-around because they’re made with water and pot still malted barley instead of the harsher chemicals used in American and Scottish production.
What is the best way to drink whiskey? Is there a right or wrong way to drink whiskey? Not really, but there are some techniques that may make the experience more enjoyable and bring out the best tastes and flavours.
For example, many people will suggest adding a few tiny splashes of water to bring out more of the hidden flavours. Others say it’s okay to swirl it around in a glass-like wine or use ice cubes to keep it cold. There are also those who believe that whiskey is best enjoyed neat with no chaser.
The steps to drinking whiskey are:
Drinking whiskey has traditionally been a group event. In the days of “working” and drinking, men would come together to share in a drink called “half-and-half.” This was a specific kind of whiskey which had been diluted with water by half with each glass. So here is the modern way of doing it.
- Take a good look at your bottle and read the label to see how much it has been aged in a barrel . (Some distilleries may age more than others, but always look for “aged” on the label.)
- Try one neat or two with ice in a chilled glass. Start with something light and sweet — something like Jameson Irish Whiskey if you’re tasting for the first time, or Jameson 12 Year Old if you’re accustomed to drinking Scotch (whisky).
- Wait one minute for the whiskey to settle.
- Take a small sip and exhale through your nose, which will help bring out the flavors. As you sip, try to remember the smell and tasting notes from your first inhalation. Now try it again with a few more sips — and focus on what’s going on in you mouth. It may be different than what you tasted when you inhaled through your nose — and that’s okay!
- Repeat this exercise until you are happy with what you’ve tasted.
- If you like the whiskey, consider adding a few drops of water (or ice) to bring out more flavor. Then try enjoying it neat again — just to see if your taste buds have changed.
- Savor the finish — which should linger for a minute or two after each sip — and make sure it’s one that brings out the experience of pure delight in your mouth and throat!
- Now, you’re ready to move on to the next bottle. What is your favorite whiskey?
You can never have too many tips when dealing with whiskey, so here’s a few more:
- Use a small amount of ice. But remember, adding too much ice will actually dilute the flavors rather than intensify them.
- If you’re prepping your own drink in a mixing glass, use less ice than you would if you were using a jigger to measure an exact amount of liquor in the glass. Use about 2-3 cubes, so that the whiskey has time to warm up and breathe before you pour.
- Serve your whiskey in a small wine glass, like Spanish or Bordeaux, and use a large amount of ice to chill it. Drink straight up — not on the rocks.
- Try taking shots, but use a jigger and not a shot glass – to keep the whiskey from being watered down.
- Limiting your whiskey intake to one serving per night will help you remember the subtle flavors and aromas that you may have missed in previous tastings.
- Drink beer before whiskey — or better yet, just have a snack beforehand — because drinking on an empty stomach will dull your judgment and ability to taste (and enjoy) what you are drinking.
Tips for Buying Whiskey
Buying whiskey can be often an intimidating task, don’t worry though we’ve got you covered. Below you will find some amazing tips on how to buy whiskey as well as some general whiskey information that may come in handy.
- If you want to get a good bottle, look for something that has been aged in oak barrels at least two years. Whiskey that is aged less than two years is usually blended with other whiskeys and sometimes corn whiskey (or even flavored brandy). Aged whiskey from Scotland, Ireland and Canada are also available.
- If you want to get an even better bottle, look for something that is “single malt” or “pure potstill” or both. These terms mean that all of the whiskey in the bottle came from one distillery with no added flavorings. They’re also more expensive than a blend — but they’re usually worth it.
- Look for a smooth taste and aroma when tasting your whiskey. This means that it will be less harsh than cheaper blends.
- If you’re buying whiskey in a bar, try to find something that is 100 proof — or at least 80 proof. This means that it is twice the strength of most whiskies on the market, and much more affordable too!
Again, the taste of whiskey will depend on your individual palate. But whatever your taste, you’re sure to find something you like.
Frequently asked questions about drinking whiskey
What is whiskey?
Whiskey is distilled at less than 160 proof, and aged in oak barrels for at least two years. Only ethanol, water and impurities are used in the distillation process. No sugar or flavoring additives are permitted.
What are some common whiskey brands?
Bushmills, Jameson, Jack Daniels, Jim Beam and Wild Turkey are some of the most well-known whiskey distillers in the world.
What drinks can I make with whiskey?
Whiskey sour, Manhattan, Old Fashioned and Rob Roy are some of the most popular cocktails made with whiskey.
How is Scotch different from bourbon or rye?
Scotch is distilled in Scotland and aged for three years or longer.