Gather up all the cherry cola’s, ice cube trays, high ball, rocks, and shot glasses in the immediate area—and throw them in the trash! Today, you’re drinking whiskey like an educated (read: REAL) man.
Find a quiet, well lit room—devoid of extraneous smells and distractions. Open up a few windows to allow some proper ventilation, de-clutter your tasting table and feel free to run a vacuum over the rug a few hours before you’re ready to drink. Take a quick shower to rinse off any overpowering perfumes and be sure your guests all do the same (sipping fine spirits is better with friends, drinking alone is for Bukowski). You’re trying to rid the air of any obnoxious odors that will interfere with your tasting experience.
While your ‘Jack Daniels’ embellished rocks glass was a nice gift idea—the mouth is too wide to capture the aroma of your whiskey, and allows too much of the character to escape. This is why you will need to invest in a decent set of ‘Nosing Glasses’. Nosing Glasses are made of pure crystal, and designed with a specific interest in mind—engulfing your senses with all the details you need to properly enjoy your whiskey. You can get a decent set for under thirty bucks, but if you aren’t interested in adding to your glassware collection—a nice snifter or fluted stem glass will do just as well. The stem is to be used when handling the glass so your hand doesn’t warm your drink prematurely. As with the room, you want to be sure the glasses are washed with an odorless detergent, rinsed well, and air dried.
Measure out about an ounce of the whiskey of your choice, and let it rest for a moment. Add about half an ounce of distilled water and give it a swirl. Distilled water is preferred, because if you’re like most of America—your tap water stinks. Diluting your whiskey may make you feel a bit more like Glen Campbell than John Wayne—but this is how it was meant to be done. Not only does a touch of water help release the full aroma by breaking down the bonds that lock in the flavor—but the alcohol content in a whiskey served neat is enough to anesthetize your olfactory, and paralyze your taste buds.
The shape of those nice glasses you bought will finally start to make sense. So much of what helps define whiskey is its distinct smell. Pick up your glass, jam your nose inside, and give it a big whiff. You’re going to be hit with the overpowering smell of alcohol. Take the glass away for a moment, and then take another whiff. You will smell a noticeably different aroma. Take your time, and go for a third smell. This will properly introduce yourself to your drink—and you are ready to imbibe.
You’re not one of the magnificent seven, so there is no rush to reach the bottom of your bottle. Grasp your glass by the stem and raise it to your lips. Take a nice, slow sip and let it rest inside your mouth. Move the liquid around your mouth, over and under your tongue and let it come to rest right on the center. As the whiskey warms to your body temperature—the true flavors will begin to develop. Breathe. Rest. Relax. Swallow. Breathe. Relax. Repeat.
Whiskey pairs well with dark chocolate and some John Coltrane. Whether you’ve chosen a ten dollar litre of Canadian Crest, or a $400,000 bottle of Macallan—these tips will have you tasting like a pro.