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Whisky Tasting Notes

These tasting tips will help you get the most out of your whisky, the experience can be more enjoyable with a group of friends so that you can compare notes after ‘nosing’ and ‘tasting’. As a suggestion, it may be worth having a whisky from each of the regions, one each from the Lowland, Speyside, Highland, Campbeltown and Islay regions, or choose whiskies with different finishes or ages.

There are many wonderful and varied scotch whiskies available and the aromas and tastes which you identify can be compared with the notes on the Tasting cards provided in your Whisky Tasting Set. Over time you will be able to clearly discern typical whisky aromas and flavours such as vanilla, citrus, spice and smoke.

Learn, taste, enjoy!

Lay out your Whisky Tasting Mat, and pour a measure of one or all of the five whiskies in your set. If you do pour more than one whisky it will help you compare the difference between the whiskies. You may use tumblers, but it is believed that a glass that is narrower at the top than the bottom is best, as this holds aromas. Hold it by the stem so as not to warm the glass. Have some un-chilled water to hand - preferably Scottish spring water. Also, have a pen handy to make notes on your Whisky Tasting Mat.

Holding the glass up to the light, note the colour, depth and clarity. Colour doesn't necessarily reveal age; it indicates how the whisky was matured, there are a large range of colour differences between whiskies and these can vary from very pale gold colours in light whiskies matured solely in bourbon casks to a very dark - almost black/red colour of older whiskies (particularly single cask whiskies) which have matured for many years in sherry casks, although the degree of tint will also depend on whether the cask is on it’s first, second or third filling.

Legs will form on a glass when it is held at an angle and rotated to roll the whisky on the inside walls of the glass After doing this, hold the glass upright and watch the liquid forming the 'legs' as it runs down the sides of the glass. The slower the legs the more viscous the liquid - and the older it is.  By comparing varying ages of whisky you will see the difference.

Pass the glass smoothly under your nose, breathing in deeply through the nose as you do. What do those smells remind you of?

Always concentrate when you sniff, focusing on the act of smelling could, for example, be the difference between identifying, or missing, the slight hint of aroma in a delicate single malt. You might like to close your eyes to help concentration, now pass the glass back under your nose and repeat the process.

With your tongue in a small spoon shape, sip from the glass, letting the whisky sit on your tongue. Firstly, try and articulate the aromas and flavours you experience - remembering that they're complex and forever changing. Secondly, take note of the ‘mouth-feel’. The mouth-feel refers to both the texture and the intensity of the whisky in the mouth and depending on the whisky, can vary from a very light, dry, fresh sensation, through to creamy and warm to very heavy and rich.

Finally, as you swallow, take note of the ‘finish’ and the ‘after taste’, some lighter whiskies can finish quickly, whilst others seem to linger in your mouth and nostrils, until eventually fading.

Only add a few drops, swirl the glass and you'll find that the mix has mellowed. Take a small mouthful along with some air, and take note of the subtle differences. If tasting a whisky with very high alcohol strength there can be an almost ‘burning’ sensation. It is usual with cask strength whiskies to dilute with up to one-third water.

It is advisable not to add ice during a tasting session as this can ‘dull’ the nose and taste sensation.

There are no 'right' or 'wrong' articulations of the aromas and tastes you experience. So sit back and enjoy!