Below is the system and a brief explanation of each category I use when exploring a whiskey. Please keep in mind everyone is different. While we will share some experiences with appreciating whiskeys, I may be more in-tune to certain smells and flavors and I will most certainly miss out on some aspects you pick up!
Note: all tastings will be done with a Glencairn glass.
The name of the whiskey I am trying.
This is how intense the whiskey is and how difficult it is to differentiate the flavors in the nose and mouth. Being in one of these categories is neither good or bad, it is only a reference to how much work will be put in to trying to appreciate the whiskey in a tasting.
1. Complex – an extremely intense and at times confounding whiskey. It is hard to wade through everything that is going on in the mouth and the nose. Depending on your perspective this can be either very rewarding or intimidatingly disappointing.
2. Demanding – a very intense whiskey. Take time with these and if patience is exercised, you should be able to dredge through the stimuli without missing much.
3. Hard – an intense yet accessible whiskey. These drams are very fierce and challenging but reveal themselves to those willing to put in some work.
4. Standard – a whiskey with enough aromas and flavors to reward both the trained and novice drinkers.
5. Easy – these whiskeys reveal themselves to every drinker and don’t hold back, for better or worse.
This will include the type of whiskey, age if listed, and other information about the sample.
This is a measure of the color, clarity, and depth of the whiskey. I have found a chart on the malt-review.com web site which is very helpful.
This is what the whiskey smells like and is the most important aspect to appreciating the experience. The nose can differentiate up to 47 aromas as opposed to taste, where we can only discern 4 (The Smell Report) flavors. Again, I’m not going to reinvent the wheel, please check out the wonderful chart appearing on the malt-review.com web site.
This is what the whiskey tastes and feels like. Again, we are all different, so while we should be tasting the majors flavors together the subtle ones will be different from person to person. It is also fun to note that the four primary flavors (sweet, sour, bitter, and salt) will show up on the tongue, everything else is detected on the back of the palate in the nasal passage. Again, I’m not going to reinvent the wheel, please check out the wonderful chart appearing on the malt-review.com web site, I feel like I’m getting repetitive here, but hey, it’s a great resource!
Taste with Water
Whiskey being hydrophilic, I feel it is important to include this category. The amount of room temperature water added will vary with the initial pour of whiskey, but I will always use purified bottled water. I will never use ice (warm water will excite the whiskey molecules, the cold ice will slow them down and close the flavors and aromas).
This is the aftertaste of the whiskey. It involves the flavors and aromas one can detect after swallowing the drink and how long those last. It is also a physical experience or in other words, do you get a warming feeling afterwards, does it make you shrivel your nose, etc. The Finish will also be conducted without water being added.
This is my final judgement about the whiskey. I do not use a point system, but rather a more simple question system, “would I drink it again or not?”
1. Something Special – this has reached whiskey nirvana! It has challenged me to the reach of my abilities and was an extremely rewarding whiskey leaving me in awe. It is one I would spend money on over and over and has made and unbelievable impression on me. Highest possible recommendation!
2. Must Have– this has become one of my favorites and has been an adventure in exploring. There are many diverse flavors and aromas which titillate the pallet and reward those willing to take the time to find them. Highly Recommend
3. Again – I would definitely buy this again, and most certainly give it as a gift. It has impressed me and made me happy I drank it. Recommended
4. Possibly Again – It was a good experience, but not enough to ring any bells. I am better for the experience and look forward to future bottles in the hopes that there may have been a change to raise its status. If I am spending money, I will look for something else before I go with a bottle of this one. Slightly recommended– go ahead and buy it to try it at least once.
5. Never Again – a waste of money, but not time. You need to know the bad to know the good, so if you are willing to spend the money on it go ahead and experience how bad it is, otherwise just follow my recommendation and avoid it. Not recommended!