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Last year I went to Dublin to visit guinness storehouse and some whisky distillery.

As long as Guinness is such a masterpiece, I found myself attracted more by the whiskey, which was a surprise...

During the tour in the factory I got an explanation on how it is supposed to drink whiskey to get all flavors and odors, but , shamefully, I'm not a native speaker, so I got just basic help, and I'm pretty sure I did not get something about respiration.

So, as long as enjoying whiskey is not a cheap option, and I would want to drink it and enjoy it as it is supposed to be done. Are there any rule or advice on how to drink properly whiskey?

  • Follow the steps here and watch till the end to realize it doesn't really matter. ^_^ – user7073 Sep 3 '17 at 1:10
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  1. Just like wine, whisky demands a reasonable glass that will help rather than hinder the aromas. Avoid shot glasses and wide-mouthed tumblers, and go for something like the Glencairn Whisky Glass, or a tulip glass or even a brandy snifter.
  2. Pour an amount that will let you swirl the whisky without sloshing it. Swirl it to coat the sides, which will allow you to smell it better. Observe the "legs", but don't be fooled by superstitions attached to them, they're a consequence of the Marangoni Effect (fascinating video).
  3. Stick your nose over the glass's opening and inhale very gingerly. Avoid knocking your smell receptors out. Save the deep breaths for after step 5.
  4. (optional) Take a tiny sip (again save your enthusiasm for after you have tasted it diluted, or you risk numbing your taste and smell receptors), and just like wine, let it run over all of your tongue, and like wine "chew" it to allow the air you are intaking to bring the aromas and flavors to the back of your nose.
  5. Drink some water and possibly eat something neutral. Add a few drops of (good quality) water to the whisky, try to take the ABV to around 35%ish.
  6. Stick your nose deeper into the glass and smell. I'd still suggest being a little cautious until you learn the glasses and your nose. It would be a pity to numb yourself at this stage.
  7. Take a sip, let it run all over your tongue. "Chew" it... Savor it.

Try to learn something about the whisky you are drinking and associate how it was made with what you are tasting. Was it peated? Is it kept by the sea? What type of oak is used? How old is it? All these things will drastically affect the flavor.

If you are drinking the whisky to taste it, please do not skip step 5 (Note 1, Note 2, Note 3, Note 4). You can always decide you prefer a whisky undiluted afterwards.

In a similar vein, you can decide you prefer ice after tasting it properly, despite Note 4's suggestions. By all means drink how you want to drink, but adding ice is prone to both over-cool the whisky (diminishing and changing its flavors) and also over-dilute it. Optimal temperature and strength will vary by whisky and by drinker's preferences (and season, etc.), but I'd aim to start your investigations at around 15-20C and around 30-35%.

  • good answer, and fascinating as well the art of drinking whiskeys – Anon Mar 1 '17 at 8:02
  • I get the tulip glass thing, but as a big whisky drinker I don't like them, too hard to drink from. I usually use a small, wide-rimmed glass somewhere between a shot glass and a tumbler, enough to hold an ounce or two of neat liquor, and lightweight. Also don't usually dilute my whisky, given I should experiment a bit more with that. – Canadian Coder Mar 9 '17 at 17:50
  • @mcraen I'm a pretty strong proponent of enjoying what you enjoy in whatever way gives you the maximum pleasure, so if partaking of larger sips of cask strength from a wider-mouth glass is what does it for you, you should by all means keep doing that! I tried to hedge a little ("if you are drinking it to taste it" preface to my exhortation not to skip step 5) and suggestion that you should really be experimenting... it should be both fun and a learning experience, and hopefully deliciously pleasurable too :) – David Mar 9 '17 at 18:06
  • I've done a small bit of researching on whisky dilution and am still unconvinced that it 'improves' the experience, but rather just 'changes' the experience. I'd love to get a definitive answer on the effect. I suspect the practice has arisen from people who drink sub-par whisky and like masking the harshness a bit, with water and/or ice. For me, I have no problem with the harshness of any liquor so usually just go full strength. – Canadian Coder Mar 9 '17 at 19:10
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    @mcraen I believe your suspicion is fundamentally incorrect. Higher ethanol concentrations mean the formation of more ethanol micelles which tend to trap aromatics. Adding water will interfere with the micelles, releasing flavor and aroma. This has nothing to do with harshness. You will get more (and more varied) flavors with judicious dilution. Just don't go overboard, and remember to choose what you like best, which may indeed be cask strength... As long as you've tried the alternatives, it's probably best (in any situation in life) to strongly consider discarding received "wisdom". – David Mar 9 '17 at 22:03

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