whisky sniff

An easy guide on how to nose your whisky

Today, Saturday May 19, is World Whisky Day.

People across the planet will be enjoying a dram or two to mark the occasion.

Whether you’re something of a whisky afficionado, or a keen amateur, there’s something for everyone.

To help you make the most of your whisky drinking experience, we present an easy guide to nosing your whisky.

1 Use a good nosing glass.

If you really want to get the most out of a whisky then it’s important that you are using a glass that highlights the aromas. A Glencairn whisky glass is ideal as it allows you to swirl the whisky and has a nice narrow opening which will concentrate the aromas near to where your nose fits into the glass. If you can’t get your hands on a Glencairn then a copita (sherry) glass works well too.

2 Look at your whisky before you nose or taste it.

This may seem like a strange thing to do but you can learn a lot about a Whisky before it’s even gone near your lips or nose. First, hold your glass up and look at the colour of the whisky. The colour can give you a very good indication of what kind of barrel the Whisky was matured in. If the whisky is yellowy straw-like colour this gives a good indication that the whisky was matured in bourbon barrels. Bourbon matured whisky will give the whisky sweet vanilla notes. However, if the whisky is a deep amber colour this shows that it was probably matured in sherry barrels. Sherry matured whisky will give aromas of dried fruits.

3 Swill it around the glass.

Once you’ve done this, look at the legs or tear drops forming on the inside of the glass. If they are short and fast the whisky will be low in alcohol, probably 40% abv as this is the legal minimum. If they are long and slow then this is a good way to tell that the whisky will be high in alcohol strength and could be cask strength.

4 Put your nose in.

Now it’s time to put your nose into the whisky. Don’t put your nose in too quickly as your nostrils might get a fright from the alcohol vapours. Slowly move the glass under your nose, underneath both nostrils. Your nose can detect over a trillion different odours and most people have one nostril that is better than the other so make sure you use both of them. What can you smell? Try to slowly narrow down what you can smell. For example if it smells fruity now try to figure out what kind of fruit. If you smell apples are they green or red apples? Are they cooked? Are they dried? This can help you figure out what your nose is picking up. This is referred to as ‘one the nose’ aromas. But don’t worry, there are no right or wrong answers. So if you don’t get the same aromas as the ones written on the back of the bottle your nose isn’t wrong.

5 Now take a wee sip.

First I would recommend just taking a quick sip to wake up your palate as 40% alcohol can give it a fright and make it feel dry. Now take a much larger sip, this time try and leave it on your tongue for as long as you can. Really chew the whisky and swirl around your gums. Try to cover your tongue, as this is where your tastes buds are. Some people recommend trying to leave the whisky in your mouth for one second for every year it was aged. So for a 12 year old whisky try to leave it on your tongue for 12 seconds before swallowing it. Think about the different kinds of flavours you are tasting. This is referred to as your ‘palate’. Then after swallowing, it is referred to as ‘the finish’. The finish can be short, and vanishes quickly or long and lingering.

6 Add some water (optional!).

The final step, but its entirely up to you, is to add water and repeat the nosing and tasting steps. It is amazing how much a splash of water can help a whisky open up and unlock new flavours and aromas. Make sure you use fresh clean water, just a splash will do but it is up to you, use a pipette if you want to be very careful. Remember, you can always add more water but you can’t take it out if you add too much. Now, relax and enjoy your whisky. Some people like to take notes of the aromas and