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How To Taste Whiskey

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Whisky, aqua vitae, the water of life. Whatever you call it, this ancient distillate is the world's most popular and most diverse spirit. Whether your preference is for peaty Scottish malts, smooth, triple-distilled Irish Whiskeys or fiery Bourbon, correct tasting methods can help you to discover and explore new regions, tastes and sensations.
What you'll need: 
Whisk(e)ys of choice
Mineral water
Tulip-shaped glass/champagne flute
Tumbler
Unflavoured crackers
1: 
There are many important distinctions between the whisk(e)ys of the world's major production areas: Scotland, Ireland and the USA. One such distinction is that American and Irish whiskeys are spelled with an 'e' while Scotch whisky omits the 'e'. However, the most important difference is in the enormous variations in smell, appearance and flavour.
2: 
Assemble the whiskey's you intend to taste. It is a good idea to choose whiskey's from a wide variety of production areas as this allows you to recognise nuances and differences in style, taste and mouth-feel.
3: 
The method of whiskey tasting remains the same regardless of the spirit chosen. However, attention should be paid to the alcoholic strength of the whiskey being tasted. This will determine the amount of mineral water to be added to the whiskey prior to tasting.
4: 
Use a tulip-shaped glass or champagne flute when tasting whiskey . This will allow you to nose the spirit without over-exposing it to alcohol and desensitising your (all-important) sense of smell.
5: 
Pour 20-25ml of whiskey into the glass, holding the stem so as to avoid warming the spirit. Add a small splash of room temperature mineral water to the glass to release the flavours and prevent fatigue and desensitisation of your nose and palate. Avoid adding ice as this will cause the whiskey to 'close up' and hide its nuances.
6: 
Swirl the whiskey around the glass to release the aromas before lifting the glass to your nose and gently sniffing. Try to identify the various aromas. You may find that one particular note sticks out or that the aroma is complex and layered.
7: 
Take a small amount of whiskey into your mouth, moving it around to coat the taste buds. Don't keep the whiskey in your mouth for too long as it will start to anaesthetise your taste buds. Think about the identifiable flavours as you taste. Smoke, leather, tobacco, honey, caramel, wood, coffee, salt, chocolate and heather are just a few of the possible tasting notes.
8: 
Eating an unflavoured cracker and taking a sip of water is an excellent way to cleanse the palate before tasting another whiskey which may have an entirely different taste profile.
Conclusion: 
Whiskey is an extraordinarily complex spirit with each region providing an exciting array of flavours and smells. Remember that tasting is a multi-sense experience so make sure that you consider not only the flavour profile but also the smell, mouth-feel and appearance of the spirit.
Tips: 
Only pour a small amount of whiskey into each glass. Adding too much will result in either wastage or a numb palate.
Either use a different glass for each whiskey or rinse your glass thoroughly between tastings.
Gently inhale once you have swallowed the whiskey . This will expose your sinuses to the aromas.

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