There are two basic types of Scotch whisky: malt whisky (made from malted barley)
and grain whisky (made from raw grain such as corn or wheat). It can be used in such
simple mixed drinks as the Scotch and soda or in more complex cocktails such as the
Rob Roy or the Scotch sour. Blended Scotch is fine for these purposes, but many Scotch
drinkers take their favourite dram neat.
Hold your tastings in a room that is free of cooking odours or other smells. Don't
wear perfume or cologne or heavily scented deodorant, which will interfere with the
aroma of the Scotch.
What to look for while tasting
Choose sherry, port glasses or small dessert-wine glasses since they allow you to
swirl the spirit before nosing and tasting, to release the aromas and flavours.
Appearance: Hold the Scotch up against a white background and examine the colour
and clarity. The darkness of the whisky is a clue to its age and the type of wood
in which it has been stored. Swirl the whisky and look for the legs or tears that
form against the side of the glass. The richest whiskies have the most noticeable
Nose: You won’t need to stick your nose far into the glass; you can get a far better
sense of the whisky’s aroma by simply raising the glass slowly up to your nose until
you begin to get a rich but not overpowering sense of aroma. Drops of bottled water
will release further components of the whisky’s smell. Pass the whisky under your
nose again and see how the aromas have become more complex.
Taste: A small sip is plenty. Let the whisky coat your tongue and note whether it
feels rough or smooth, overly hot or simply warming. Is it sweet or savoury? Can
you guess from the tones of seaweed, iodine and brine whether this might be an Islay
malt? Does it have the more floral delicacy of Speyside?