By nosing your whisky, it can help you pick out flavours and aromas that you wouldn’t have been able to detect through sipping alone. It’s a critical part of the process that is too often overlooked. But even the act of nosing itself requires technique and experience.
Tasting whisky is an art form.
But every true whisky lover knows that the key tool when tasting whisky is the nose.
We’ve asked our master blender Sandy Hyslop to share a guide on nosing to help you get the best in your whisky drinking experience.
1. First you will need whisky. There is no better way to begin your experience than with an expression from The Glenlivet. From the fruity and summery scent of The Glenlivet 12 to the sweet cinnamon aroma of The Glenlivet Captain’s Reserve, our range of single malt whiskies will provide the introduction to expert nosing.
2. The correct glassware makes a big difference. The most popular glasses for whisky nosing and tasting feature a bulbous body shape specifically designed to collect the aromas and direct it through the narrow rim to your nose. The shape of the glass also allows you to swirl like a pro without spilling a sip.
3. Hold your glass up to the light to observe the colour. Hold it by the base or the stem and gently give it a swirl.
4. Now it’s time for the two important essentials. Your notes and your nose. It’s vital to write down all the details about the whisky you’re nosing, and the tasting notes that come from it, so you’re able to remember the difference between each of the drams.
5. Now for the nose, this is perhaps the most important part of assessing a whisky as you will be able to detect new flavours through inhaling alone. Once you’ve given your whisky a swirl, you will smoothly release the aromas. Gradually, bring the glass to your nose until you start noticing some of these scents, opening your mouth slightly when breathing, with your nose an inch or so away from the lip of the glass. The nose is a sensitive and delicate part of the body, so be gentle when inhaling.
6. What does the smell remind you of? Let your memories take flight. Our scent memory is really good, and it is a lot easier to recognise an aroma when you’ve got a memory to link it to. So, the more personal, the better.
7. Now it’s time to try to identify the various different flavours and aromas within the dram. What are your first impressions? What is the overall flavour? Is it; light, strong, sweet, fragrant, fruity, malty, oaky, smoky or something else?
8. Repeat this for a second time and note down these particular flavours. The scents of smoke, fruit and spice should stand out fairly easily to start, although do not be discouraged if you’re not picking these scents out straight away. The most important thing to remember is that whisky is entirely subjective; there are never any wrong answers.
9. Practice! Through continuing to nose whisky, you’ll be able to understand the smells further. Fruit might start to smell more citrusy, spice might start to smell of cinnamon or nutmeg and you may even be able to pick out the cask flavours used in the different stages of maturation, such as Sherry, Port or Virgin Oak.