Tasting Steps

glencarn nose smell tasting
Floyd Murphy

Floyd Murphy

Founder, Whiskey Shelf

Tasting whiskey involves several steps to fully appreciate its flavors, aromas, and overall character. Here’s a typical process.


2.Visual Examination

3.Aroma Evaluation





8.Blooming: Water or Ice (Optional)

Remember, tasting whiskey is a subjective experience, and everyone’s palate is different. Don’t be afraid to trust your own senses and preferences as you explore different whiskeys.

1. Preperation: Ensure you have a clean glass suitable for whiskey tasting, typically a tulip-shaped glass or a Glencairn glass. Pour a small amount of whiskey (about 1-2 ounces) into the glass.

2. Visual Inspection: Hold the glass up to the light and observe the color and clarity of the whiskey. Note the hue, intensity, and viscosity of the liquid.

3. Aroma Evaluation: Swirl the whiskey gently in the glass to release its aromas. Bring the glass to your nose and inhale gently. Take note of the various scents you percieve, such as fruit, spice, wood, caramel, or smoke. Try to identify any dominant aromas and subtle undertones. 

4. Taste: Take a small sip of the whiskey and let it coat your mouth. Roll the whiskey around on your tongue, allowing it to reach all taste receptors. Note the initial flavors, any changes as it sits in your mouth, an the finish. Pay attention to the sweetness, bitterness, spiciness, and other flavor notes. 

5. Mouthfeel: Consider the texture of the whiskey on your palate. Is it smooth, oily, creamy, or dry? Note the body of the whiskey, which can range from light to full-bodied.

6. Finish: Swallow the whiskey or spit it out if you prefer not to consume alcohol. Pay attention to the lingering aftertaste, known as the finish. Note the duration of the finish and any additional flavors or sensations that emerge. 

7. Reflection: Take a moment to reflect on your overall impression of the whiskey. Consider how the various elements – aroma, taste, mouthfeel and finish come together to create the overall experience. Compare your tasking notes to the whiskey’s known characteristics or any tasking notes provided by the distiller.  Score the whiskey:

98-100 points – Incredible: One of the best I’ve ever had
95-97 points – Fantastic: a whisky I would recommend to all my friends
90-94 points – Excellent: would try to have a bottle on the shelf at all times
85-89 points – Very good: a whisky with unique qualities
80-84 points – Solid: well-made whisky but unremarkable
75-79 – Mediocre: a drinkable whisky that has significant flaws
0-74 – Not recommended

8. Blooming – Water or Ice (Optional): Some people prefer to add a few drops of water or a single ice cube to their whiskey to open up its flavors and aromas. This small amount of water breaks the alchohol bonds to the flavors and smells resulting in a more intense experience.