A Quick Beginner’s Guide to Appreciating Whiskey


A local bar owner asked me if I've ever written a short guide about how to approach whiskey. He wanted to use it for a flight he was setting up for new whiskey drinkers. As incredibly useful as that sounded, I was stunned that I hadn't ever put one together. I walk people through this all the time in the whiskey events I host, but it never struck my mind to write it up!

A Quick Beginner’s Guide to Appreciating Whiskey


So, you’re new (or newish) to the Wonderful World of Whiskey, and you want to do things correctly. How do you go about that? The most important thing is not letting anyone tell you you’re drinking it wrong. There is no right way to drink whiskey, except for how you enjoy drinking it.

Sipping whiskey begins with the bottle in front of you. Grab a glass. Pour a small amount of whiskey into the glass and leave it alone. Let it breathe for anywhere from five to ten minutes. While it is sitting there, take a moment and observe the color. Give the glass a bit of a swirl and look at the legs (or tears) it creates. Are they slow or fast, thick or thin?


Once it has sufficiently rested, it is time to enjoy the aroma. Don’t shove your nose in the glass; instead, bring it to about chin level or your bottom lip. Open your mouth slightly, and then sniff like a dog or rabbit with short, quick repetitions. Your mouth will enhance your sense of smell. Try to identify what you’re picking up.


Now it is time for the tasting. The first sip is a shock to your palate. Anything overwhelming will hit in that initial try. Never judge a whiskey on it! Hold the whiskey in your mouth for a few seconds, let it fill everywhere. Your palate is now prepared to pick out flavors with the second sip. Some may be fruity, sweet, spicy, and smoky. Don’t worry if you cannot identify them; that’s something that takes experience.


The last part is the finish, or what remains in your mouth after you’ve swallowed. Is it short or long? Is it sweet, spicy, or smoky? Most importantly, did you enjoy it?


In the end, you should savor your whiskey, and in my experience, it is always better to share with friends. Cheers!

Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.