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How to evaluate a whisky

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How to evaluate a whisky

Postby IrishWhiskeyChaser » Tue Jun 16, 2009 12:00 am

A Tasting Class from Charles MacLean

Notable Scotch Whisky expert Charles MacLean was trained in 'the sensory evaluation of potable spirits' by the Scotch Whisky Research Institute in 1992 and has presented numerous tastings and talks in the U.K. and abroad for whisky companies, corporations, universities and clubs, and on radio and TV. He is also one of Scotland's foremost whisky writers and has published several books

Here is his quick guide in how to properly evaluate a whisky


The best way to taste whisky is with friends!
There are five indicators when one tastes a whisky and they are as follows:

A tulip-shaped 'wine tasting' glass is ideal for this task as it captures the nose in the bottom of the glass, allowing it to escape only when swirled! Just under a full tot is required in the glass to taste.


Lift the glass by the base or the stem and hold it up to the light. Note the colour. Ideas of colour:

* Amber
* Ruby gold
* Champagne
* Rich molasses
* Treacle
* Honey
* Apple juice
* Sunshine

Swirl the whisky in the glass and notice the "oily legs" that drip down the inside of the glass. They are an indicator of age, abv. And the way the whisky was made - the shape of the still - more or less contact with copper may well indicate thicker, short or thinner, longer legs.

This is THE most important part in any tasting - at the optimum level, one's olfactory senses can identify up to 32 primary aromas, whilst taste only covers 4!

Place your nose into the glass and sniff LIGHTLY - this whisky is 43% abv. And should you take a large sniff you may well experience what we know as "nose burn". A light sniff from side to side will give you a fair indication of the flavour coming through. Very often, there is pure alcohol on the nose and this is always encouraging as WATER is the magic ingredient to bring out the real nose.

Add a dash of spring water - a third of what is in the glass or just enough to stop the prickly sensation on the nose - and when you add the water, notice the oily chains or aroma-bearing compounds moving in the glass. You are injecting oxygen into the glass and allowing the flavours to escape.

Now nose.

You do not have to suck in air, gargle or shake the whisky around your mouth in order to get the best palate out of your whisky. Just take a wee sip and swallow. The areas on your tongue will indicate different characteristics of the whisky:

Tip of your tongue - sweet

Sides of your tongue - spicy or peppery

Back of your tongue - acidity or bitterness or smoke

Centre of your tongue - described as the "oomami" - where the total flavour comes to rest after swallowing. It may feel like a ping-pong ball in the centre of your mouth filled with flavour.

The finish on any whisky is the overall flavour left in the mouth and the warming sensation as the whisky leaves your mouth and finds its way to your stomach. That warmth is a finish.

Please visit Charlie's website - (
Sláinte Adrian
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