Can you tell the difference between Scotch, Bourbon, Whiskey and a punch in the mouth?
If not, Quora user Brian Collier has the perfect steps to becoming an expert.
1. You both need room to breathe.
Use an old fashioned glass. The glass is as wide as it is tall, and give the whiskey lots of air. It also lets you get your nose in the glass so you can smell all the amazing stuff happening in there.
2. Keep things one-on-one.
If you really want to learn to detect different flavors in your whiskey, don’t mix it with sodas like Coke or Sprite because the sugar and other flavors in the soda will overwhelm the flavor of the whiskey.
3. Friends are nice in small doses.
Water is whiskey’s best friend…in small amounts. If you’ve got cask-strength whiskey in a glass, it’s going to burn you. Splash a little water in there and you’ll be amazed at how much flavor opens up. If you’re just starting out, try mixing 3/4 whiskey to 1/4 water in your glass. This will take the edge off the alcohol burn and allow you to taste the other flavors. Carbonated water is a whole other experience because the bubbles change how the flavors reach you, enhancing some and muting others. (If you’re used to drinking your booze with Coke, try it with fizzy water sometime.)
4. Break the ice.
Ice can be good if you’re just starting out and find whiskey a little overwhelming, because the cold cuts back some of the flavors and the ice dilutes the drink as it melts. For seasoned drinkers, ice is a very personal preference, but I avoid it if I want to really taste a whiskey because warmth releases a lot of the flavors.
5. Dance with your partner.
Swirl your whiskey in the glass for a minute. Blow gently into your glass then swirl again. This will allow some of the alcohol to evaporate and carry the wonderful smells of oak and vanilla to your nose. If you smell only paint thinner, swirl a little more and smell again. Keep doing this for a little while before you take a sip.
6. Practice the art of the tease.
Sip it sloooooowly. Josh Manson’s advice to sip is very wise. You will still get a little bit of burn from the alcohol and its accompanying smell and taste, but it will be like a trumpet playing in the background of a smooth jazz session rather than a trumpet blaring into your ear.
7. Quality Over Quantity.
You don’t have to splash your cash on a $90 bottle of single malt, but aim for something over $30. If you can’t afford that, go to a bar that has a decent selection and try one glass.
8. Get a reputation check.
Ask what other people like. Ask the person in the liquor store or the bartender for a recommendation.
9. Maturity counts.
Whiskey changes as it ages, mellowing as the chemical compounds do their magic inside the barrel. People change, too. If you’re under 30, whiskey may be too wild for your taste buds. That’s totally OK, come back in a few years and try again.