We hope David MacLennans tasting notes assist you when sampling a fine whisky.
Conduct your tasting away from strong smells, such as cooking or smoke. Eat after your tasting as your senses will be sharpened by hunger.
The quality of water that you use to cut the whisky is very important, we recommend quality Tasmanian still springwater. If you can’t get it, use a low sodium springwater. We also recommend that you make your ice using this water.
Of course, wearing a kilt is optional.
You can cleanse your palate with plain, dry crackers. After the serious tasting is done, why not taste the whisky with some superb Tasmanian smoked salmon.
Select the correct glass for your tasting. If you are lucky enough to get your hands on a Cradle Glass it will even further enhance your tasting experience, in our opinion.
Our Tasting Method
- Pour a small amount of whisky into your glass. The whisky should be at room temperature.
- Hold the glass up to a light to see the whisky’s colour. Write down your observations so you can compare notes later.
- Nose the whisky. First uncut, then cut the whisky with an equal amount of springwater. The water will release the bouquet. To smell the whisky correctly, breathe the aroma in with your mouth, not your nose.
- Sip a small amount of whisky to evaluate the taste and body.
- Now fill your mouth, and let the whisky roll over your tongue. Pause to consider the flavours that you are experiencing.
- Swallow or spit out the whisky. Pause again to consider the finish of the whisky.
- If you are going to taste another whisky, first eat a dry cracker to cleanse your palate.
To hone your tasting skills, why not take some notes from our Tasting Materclass Bullet Points below:
Generally, a young whisky is clear whilst an aged whisky will have a warm, golden glow. That’s because whisky usually takes its colour from the cask. If the whisky is matured in a bourbon or wine cask, the whisky will remain pale. If a whisky matures in sherry cask, it will take on a dark, amber hue.
Don’t judge a single malt by its colour – you’ll find rich and powerful whiskies that are as fair as straw and light and fragrant whiskies that are as dark as a copper cauldron.
Nose or Bouquet
The different aromas gradually released during the tasting process.
Whiskies contain a complex combination of scents, and with a little practice you can learn to identify the individual aromas and begin decoding the various ingredients.
Here are some of the aromas you can look for:
- Fruit, flowers
- Peat, smoke
- Hay, grass
- Vanilla, toffee, honey
- Malt, bread, wheat
- Cedar, pine, resin
Taste or Palate
Multiple flavours that are released as your mouth gently warms the whisky.
A single malt will exhibit flavours such as fruity, spicy, dry and sweet?
The flavour of the whisky depends on such things as the distilling practice, the shape and size of the still, and of course the cask.
Finish or Afterglow
A description of the lingering impression the whisky leaves in the mouth.
Finish describes how the whisky feels in your mouth. Tiny sensory receptors on your tongue and palate register the flavour of the whisky.
- Sweet flavours register at the tip of the tongue.
- Sour and salt flavors to the sides and middle.
- Bitter flavours to the back.
The subtleties of a good single malt take time to register, so it is important to coat your tongue thoroughly to get the full effect of the whisky’s finish.
A description of the fullness or density of the whisky’s flavor.
As with the art of wine tasting, the term “body” is often used to more fully describe a whisky’s exact flavor.
For example, you might say a single malt is full-bodied. Or it lacks body.
Some common terms used to describe the attributes of whisky:
- Bland: Lacking in personality or distinctive characteristics
- Coarse: Of indifferent quality, or having flavors or aromas that are too intense
- Clean: Free from distractions that are out-of-character for the whisky’s flavors or aroma
- Dry: An overall sensation of astringency, lacking sweet taste or sweet aromas
- Flat: Dull, without flavor
- Fresh: The opposite of flat full of flavor, in ideal condition
- Green: The presence of aldehyde at acceptable levels
- Hard/Harsh: Strong metallic or flinty sensation in the mouth, very astringent aromas
- Heavy: Possessing a high total intensity of delectable aroma and flavor
- Light: Possessing an adequate intensity of aroma and flavor, but tending to be delicate
- Mellow: The character of the whisky has reached a good maturation, whereby alcoholic pungency is suppressed, which in turn reduces the “hotness” of the whisky to a pleasant warming
- Neutral: Usually associated with lack of aromas other than that of ethyl alcohol
- Rich: Whisky with a full intensity of character. Also associated with the presence of a pleasantly sweet aroma
- Round: A good balance between the intensity of the aroma and the flavor
- Robust: An intense aroma, full flavor, and powerful character
- Sharp: Gives the nose and/or mouth prickling or tingling sensation
- Soft: The alcohol and other aromatic ingredients lack pungency they are almost suppressed
- Sweet: Has the sugary taste of malted barley
- Thin: Feels diluted or watery and lacks aroma and flavor
Other Interesting Whisky Facts
Single Malts are made from Malted Barley only. Grain whiskys are made from unmalted barley, wheat and other grains. Blends include both malt whisky, and grain whisky.
If you buy a bottle of our 17 Year old Whisky, and cellar it for 5 years, you’ll still have a bottle of 17 year old Whisky. Whisky is different from wine in the aging process. While Whisky does have a long shelf life, if it is not store correctly bad things can happen to it, so keep the whisky in a dark, cool place.
Ageing of Whisky takes place in a cask, which is charred inside before being filled. Over the years, the whisky seeps in and out of the charcoal. This filters it, mellowing it, and gives it the caramel color (charred wood, like charred sugar, produces caramel, both being of similar chemical composition.)
The Correct Glasses
Glasses make all the difference to your tasting. Traditional whisky tumblers are all wrong for a tasting. The shape of the whisky “shot” glass – wide at the top and tapering in toward the bottom – was originally designed to disguise the taste and smell of the raw grain spirit in inferior whisky.
Whisky was originally “proved” by pouring over gunpowder and trying to ignite the gunpowder. If the powder ignited and flared the spirit was “proved”, i.e. it was up to standard.
Nowadays, it has a more scientific definition. “It is that spirit which at 10.6°C weighs 12/13 of an equal volume of distilled water also at 10.6°C”. This whisky will contain 57% alcohol per volume.