How To Sip Whiskey Like A Seasoned Professional

To a novice, the perceived etiquette around tasting and drinking whiskey can sometimes look a little intimidating. Many people have strong, and often conflicting, opinions on how best to approach the spirit: Neat? With water? Is ice ever acceptable? Then there's how to actually taste and appreciate the drink itself, especially when there are so many different varieties available, with unique and sometimes wildly complex flavor profiles.

Thankfully, whiskey expert JoAnn Street, who is the Portfolio Ambassador for Wild Turkey, has exclusively shared some top tips with Food Republic that will have you sipping like a pro in no time. And first of all, you can forget any rules about there being only one correct way to take your whiskey.

The best way to enjoy your chosen whiskey is either "to drink it neat, on the rocks, or with slight dilution to your desired taste," advises Street. "If you enjoy the flavor of a barrel proof bourbon, add an ice cube or small amount of water to help unlock different aromas and flavors." And if you want to know how much liquid to add, science has proven that the perfect amount of water to add to whiskey for the best tasting is 20%, to help open up the drink and enhance both the smell and taste of the beverage.

How to taste whiskey to let the aromas unfold

Before you taste a whiskey, take note of its color and appearance, then give the glass a swirl, and smell it. This isn't quite as simple as just sticking your nose in the glass and sniffing. Tasting glasses are often specifically designed to enhance the 'nose' of the drink thanks to their tapered shape, with many experts believing that Glencairn glasses are superior for tasting whiskey. And you won't appreciate its full aroma if you keep your mouth shut since our senses of smell and taste are so closely linked. "Smell the whiskey gently, with your mouth open to let the aromas unfold," suggests whiskey expert JoAnn Street.

When you're ready to take the first sip of your whiskey, Street suggests allowing it "to coat the inside of your mouth." Doing this can help you appreciate the mouthfeel of the whiskey — that is, how it actually feels in your mouth, not just how it tastes. Holding the whiskey on your tongue for a few seconds also helps with picking out the initial flavors within the drink and, as Street observes, "will help acclimate your palate" ready for another taste.

You may notice that the flavors begin to change as you drink more. "On the second sip, appreciate the nuances of flavor and notice how the whiskey continues to evolve on the palate after swallowing," says Street. And whatever you're drinking, enjoy the experience, because whiskey learning should be fun.