Tasting whiskey is not only an art form, but it’s also a science. According to Christian Diaz, a bartender at Shebeen in Media, Pennsylvania, whiskey tasting takes time, patience, and an open mind. We sat down with Diaz for a whiskey tasting and learned his pro tips for tasting whiskey that you can implement at a bar or in your own home.
EXPERT TIPS FOR WHISKEY TASTING
While many may be used to drinking whiskey out of a rocks glass, Diaz recommends a different, more traditional approach.
“You want to be drinking out of a Glencairn,” advises Diaz. “It was designed for whiskey drinkers, and it allows you to smell a lot of the aromatics that go into the whiskey itself.”
In addition to having the proper barware, water is another essential component of whiskey tasting.
"You also want a little bit of water – just a couple of drops. It will open up the whiskey a lot, and it's going to allow you to taste the different flavors that you wouldn't necessarily taste just drinking it straight from the glass," notes Diaz.
Diaz recommends using an eyedropper or a straw to make sure a minimum amount of water is used to open up the whiskey's flavor profile.
To properly taste the whiskey, Diaz suggests adding a couple of drops of water to whiskey in a Glencairn glass, allowing it to mellow for a moment, and taking a sip followed by an exhale out of the nose to enhance the flavors on your palate.
THE WHISKEYS WE TASTED
During the tasting, Diaz shared four different whiskeys, each with its own distinct flavor profile.
Kilbeggan Small Batch Rye Whiskey
On the spicier side, Diaz noted that Kilbeggan is an excellent entry-level whiskey that could be used for making a cocktail. Flavors noted in this whiskey include vanilla, clove, warm spice, and candied sweetness.
Tyrconnell Double Distilled Single Malt Irish Whiskey
A twelve-year-old whiskey, Tyrconnell is barrel-aged with a Madeira cask finish. Full of earthy flavors such as honey, mild oak, vanilla sweetness, and cereal grains, this whiskey is typically drunk neat and is incredibly smooth.
Green Spot Single Pot Still Triple Distilled Irish Whiskey
A favorite of Diaz, Green Spot features flavor notes such as prunes, orchid fruits, green coconut, and snickerdoodles.
Knappogue Castle Single Malt Triple Distilled Irish Whiskey
One of the sweetest whiskeys in the tasting and aged for twelve years, flavor notes included peach floral notes and biscotti. Incredibly smooth, Diaz notes Knappogue Castle is an affordable option for tasting, depending on the state in which you reside.
HOW TO TASTE WHISKEY AT HOME
While bars will nearly always serve whiskey in a Glencairn glass, it may not always be an option at home. Diaz recommends using rocks glass and avoiding a shot glass.
“I wouldn’t recommend doing a tasting out of a shot glass,” advises Diaz. “I would say get something that has a bit more body a little bit lower [in the glass]. Even a wine glass can help. It allows you to really smell the aromatics in all of the whiskeys.”
In the absence of an eyedropper to add water to whiskey, using a straw and pinching the top to add a couple of drops of water will provide the same impact.