How to Taste Whiskey With Your Friends

Long gone are my days of Long Island Iced Teas and Tequila Sunrises. Now, when I want to sit back with friends after a long week or in a dark bar, I immediately go to the whiskey menu. I also have a decent collection at home which I am always looking to add to.

But one of the things I’ve learned and been challenged by people I enjoy whiskey with, is to take the time to truly taste the whiskey I am drinking.

As one of the oldest forms of alcohol and also one of the largest exports from Scotland, whiskey, like beer, comes in many different flavor profiles. These profiles come from a lot of different places.

The flavor can come from the various grains used (barley, corn, rye, and wheat) or how long they are aged and what type of barrel is used to age the whiskey. And when made in Scotland, it matters where on the island the water comes from and the altitude all matter as well.

When it comes to drinking a glass, there are a few things to remember to ensure you enjoy the pour for all it’s worth.

The Glassware

Standard Whiskey Glass

My personal favorite glass (aside from my snifter, is the Marquis Crystal from Waterford. These glasses are firm and beautiful. And I’m a big believer in a glass feeling solid in your hand and this has yet to disappoint.

Marquis Crystal from Waterford

The Snifter

If you’re ready for the “big time” in your whiskey game, add a snifter to your bar cart. This glass is dramatic and classic. It is designed for everything in the whiskey-family: cognac, brandy, and whiskey. The design allows for the whiskey aroma and flavors to come to life in a way a standard glass can’t.

Whiskey Snifter

The Whiskey

Pour Lightly

When you pour your whiskey into a glass, it is typically measured in “fingers.” It’s an unscientific measurement but a good general rule to follow. When you wrap your fingers around the glass, the whiskey is measured by how many fingers you pour. You only want to pour one or two fingers; whiskey is not your everyday beer.

Make Your Whiskey Breathe

Just like with wine, you want to make your whiskey breathe. The proper way to add life to your whiskey is to simply swirl the whiskey in your glass. This will coat the inside of the glass with the whiskey which will allow the air to interact with the drink, adding even more scent and flavor.

The Water & Ice

Good people can disagree on the issue of neat vs. water vs. ice. I know I have.


“Rocks”, better known as ice was the first way I drank whiskey. I wanted it cold. And there is nothing wrong with that. If you’re going to do ice, however, it is vital to know what kind of ice will be meeting your whiskey. It cannot be small mass-produced ice chips. It will melt much too quickly and dilute your whiskey to a terrible level. The only ice that I allow in my glass are single, large cubes / balls (get yours here) or a few large single cubes. This ensures the chill of the drink without the dilution.

A Splash of Water

This is where I would argue with people … and for reason. I didn’t want to lose the flavor of a whiskey I loved. But after doing some reading (and a few taste tests), I found I had been wrong the entire time. Not only can a few drops of water reduce the burn of the whiskey, it also allows you the opportunity to pick out other subtle flavors hidden in this treasure. Don’t go overboard, but give it a try.


This is how I now prefer any whiskey: neat. That means without ice or splashes of water. I want to experience the drink how it was created to be. You only need a finger or two and you’ll get to experience all the flavors of your chosen whiskey.

My biggest piece of advice is to enjoy your whiskey journey. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by how your tastes evolve and how different whiskeys can taste from region to region. Cheers!

A two-time political candidate and author, Richard is passionate about financial planning, business, technology, and really good whiskey. Oh, and good German beer, too.

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