Guide to WhiskeyReviews :

 

Despite what people tell you there is no one way to experience whisky, so therefore there is probably no one way to use this site. Below is just a guide as to how I do it.

Preparation

The items that I would have with me when conducting a whisky tasting are:

Whisky Glass

I prefer the Glencairn whisky glass but so long as it is tulip shaped it should do. The standard tumblers do not capture the flavours/ aromas as the tulip shaped glasses do.

Bottled Water

Preferably from the same locality as your whisky, but any will suffice.

Pipette or Straw

To ensure you don't over-water your whisky.

the Whisky Review tasting form

Either direct onto the website or using a print out of the PDF.

What does the label tell you?

These are the things you can fill out just from the label (you will of course have to fill these out last in a blind tasting).

Country 

Where does this Whisky originate from?

Region 

What area of the above country (if relevant)?

Distillery 

What is the name of the distillery (if known)?

Type

Is it a Single Malt, Blended Malt, Grain, Rye, Corn, Blended or Liqueur Whisky?

Bottler

Is it bottled by the Distiller (OB) or by an independent bottler (IB)? If it is the later then name them.

Age

What age statement is on the bottle? If it is not stated then write NAS

ABV

What is the % of alcohol? In the UK, the proof-to-ABV ratio is 7:4. In the US, it's 2:1

Owned

Do you currently own a bottle of this Whisky?

 

What does the Whisky tell you?

Colour

Not everyone believes that this is important but I find it worthy of note. After pouring you dram, hold the glass at an angle, in good light, against a plain white piece of paper and compare the colour with the Whisky Review colour chart

The Nosing

Aroma (Straight)

I swirl the whisky in the glass and sniff it cautiously. If it has been bottled direct from the cask it may be as much as 63% alcohol, and too powerful a sniff can anaesthetise your sense of smell for a short time.

If it is not too powerful I will get my nose right in the glass, and take a long slow breathe in. Not too deep, just enough to fully appreciate.

Different whiskies cause slightly different physical effects, especially when they are at cask strength (i.e. un-reduced prior to bottling): experts refer to phenomena such as 'nose prickle', or 'nose drying', or even 'nose burn'.

The basic characteristic aromas of the whisky will be present - you should tick them off, if you can identify them - but they may well be 'closed': subdued, spirity and vaporous.

Aroma (Dilute)

If cask strength you may want to add a little water or you could wait till the tasting to dilute. I wait so that I have notes for the Nose, Palate & Finish both diluted and straight as adding water can change the whisky significantly (for good and ill).

I use a pipette or drinking straw to add (bottled) water to my whisky so I don't add too much. Just a couple of drops each time, then revisit to see it there is still too much "Nose Prickle". To use a straw instead of a pipette, just place in the water, cover the top end with your finger, transfer the straw to your whisky glass and take your finger off the top of the straw to deposit the whisky. Once I have added the extra water I swirl the content to mix it well. Do not worry if the whisky gets cloudy, this is perfectly natural and does not effect your enjoyment.

Peaty and very spirity whiskies can take a lot more water. The answer is to experiment: add a little water - nose - taste - add a little more - until you feel the whisky is giving of its best, aromatically.

Spirits are evaluated more by nose than taste, unlike other drinks. Indeed, professional noses don't taste at all. They get all the information they need from sniffing.

I take a long time over the "Nose" part of the event (more time than any other part), I rest by taking regular deep breaths of fresh air, then plunge in again.

Take further notes - once you have the basic details ticked off you may want to elaborate in the comments. For example you may have ticked "Fruit - Citric" and it may feel to you like Pear Drops, or Lemon Bonbons. I always want to capture as much detail as I need no matter how bizarre and whacky it may seem. It is very difficult to put words to smells, but you can have great fun when you do.

The Palate

Take a generous sip, roll it over your tongue. First you want to register the 'texture' of the whisky. It may be smooth and viscous, spirity and vaporous or astringent and dry.

Then you want to identify the primary tastes - the immediate flavours your tongue collects. There are only four: sweet (on the tip of the tongue) salty and sour (at the sides) and dry/bitter (at the back). Most whiskies will present a mixture of these flavours, sometimes beautifully balanced, sometimes less so. Tick off the relevant boxes and if you want you can measure the intensity of these flavours on a 1-5 scale in the comments field.

Take another sip, roll it over your tongue and around your mouth. What other flavours are there? Are they consistent with the whisky's aroma, or have new elements appeared? A well-made whisky will deliver in flavour what it promises to the nose. As with wine, you sometimes encounter whiskies which have a wonderful nose, but a rather insipid flavour - or vice versa. Note your impressions.          

Over the course of time, you will notice that the flavour changes - for good or bad, and sometimes quite dramatically - if your glass remains uncovered between sips.

Tick all the basic flavours that you pick up on the Palate and add further description as needed in the comments field

The Finish

Once you have swallowed the whisky, does the flavour linger in your mouth like a cool breeze in the middle of summer?, or does it disappear rapidly like a shooting star? Tick the relevant box on the Finish (Long, Medium or Short).

Are there any echoes of former tastes or aromas, or are there new ones? Is there any after-taste, pleasant or unpleasant?

Again, tick all the basic flavours that you pick up on the Finish and add further description as needed in the comments field

Now I pour myself a second dram, suspend critical judgement and enjoy while evaluating all I have documented.

The Comments

As already mentioned you should have written in the comments the extra details you want to add about the Nose, Palate and Finish that is not covered or detailed enough by the tick boxes. Now you can also add the overall comments about how it all comes together, the price, the variation in batch etc.

The Score

I now need to give it a score out of 100, most people split it across the three parts (Nose, Palate, Finish) and some add extra parts (Appearance, Overall, etc.), some people split the 100 points evenly and some put a heavier weighting on the aspects they deem more important. I personally just mark on Nose, Palate & Finish giving 35, 35 and 30 respectfully. As a guideline to check the total score you could use:

  • 90 plus: WOW! The most amazing malts money can buy; absolutely legendary.
  • 85-89: Excellent! This is the good stuff we crave, loved and appreciated.
  • 80-84: Very Good! You really can't go wrong with these. Satisfaction guaranteed.
  • 75-79: Better than average! Good but you would only consider buying if on special offer.
  • 70-74: Below average! Not the best but not something you would avoid either.
  • 60-69: Not for me! Possibly acceptable mixed with coke?!?!
  • 50-59: Avoid! Extreme caution recommended.
  • Below 50: ARGHHHH! Not fit for human consumption.