top of page

For the enthusiast

How does one drink whiskey?

Unfortunately, the answer to this question cannot be answered succinctly. There are many different ideas and methods, but not all of them are equally suitable for the individual whisky enthousiast. There is plenty of relevant literature available and the internet nowadays also offers a wealth of information on the subject. 

Our advice is an old motto: 'Examine everything and keep the good'; you decide for yourself exactly what that good thing is. The method set out below is therefore only a guideline which, after years of experimentation, we consider for ourselves to be sufficiently effective and at the same time enjoyable.

Choose your moment

If you are somewhat serious about your work, you should preferably do the test alone and in a well-ventilated area. Some professional tasters suggest doing this at eleven o'clock in the morning or at least between breakfast and lunch.  

Although science on the latter is inconclusive, common sense dictates that one enters the tasting rested and concentrated. Of course one should have eaten but long enough that the meal enjoyed can no longer influence the taste.  

Provide a glass of water, a pipette or teaspoon, and pen and paper for your notes. Of course you want to keep details of the whiskeys you taste and are about to taste. We predict years of fun ahead and later a beautiful archive to look back on.

Choose your glass

Well, as far as we're concerned, whiskey tasting starts with choosing the right glass. In Café ZILT we work with the 'Norlan' whiskey glass because we believe that this glass brings out the aromas of the whiskey best.  

A so-called tumbler does not retain the odors sufficiently and the copita or Glencairn often used in tastings concentrate the 'hard' alcohol components in such a way that when smelling the whiskey the nose becomes numb rather than the aromas of the drink are perceived.

Watch your whiskey

The taste of whiskey is largely determined by its smell. It is therefore important to take the time to smell good and not to do this too aggressively. When the whiskey has been poured - preferably in advance -  one can first take a look at these calmly; You can already tell a lot from the color and how the whiskey behaves when it is rolled in the glass.  


Is she filtered or not? Which barrels are used for bearing? How 'fat' is the distillate? The more experienced drinker can even approximate the alcohol percentage. While viewing  the whiskey can be gently rolled; this promotes the oxidation of the drink and thus stimulates the odor development.

Smell your glass

Hold the glass at a distance of about ten centimeters below the nose and start with small 'rabbit sniffs'. Use alternately on both nostrils, bringing the glass closer and closer; eventually one puts the nose completely into the glass and then first inhales through the mouth while simultaneously a small stream of air through  the nose comes along.  


This allows the nose to get used to the alcohol in the glass; in cask strength whiskeys the percentage can even exceed sixty percent and this can numb the odor receptors in such a way that the perception of the more  subtle aroma components is negatively affected.  


Once the nose is used to it, you can inhale a little deeper through the nose. Don't forget to come up for air every now and then!

The tasting

On to the tasting itself. Make sure you have enough saliva in your mouth or take a sip of water beforehand. Whiskey must contain at least forty percent alcohol in most countries and when such a highly alcoholic drink is poured into a dry mouth, the palette is numbed. One only notices the narcotic effect of the alcohol instead of the taste. One also takes a sip of about five cc and starts to 'chew' this, whereby the entire inside of the mouth should be covered with whiskey. Don't forget the palate and the underside and sides of the tongue.  


This chewing can easily be continued for ten seconds or more; the enzymes in the saliva are given the time to break open the whiskey to reveal more flavors than if you swallow the whiskey directly. Concentrate well on what you are tasting, relying on your own perception. Tropical fruit, red fruit, honey, floral and earthy notes. The spectrum of flavors in the world of whiskey is wider than with many other drinks.


After swallowing, take a deep breath in through the mouth and nose at the same time and then exhale through the nose only. The latter provides a different scent experience than straight from the glass. Then concentrate on the aftertaste, where the taste changes character, as it were, and eventually a basic taste remains. When the smell, taste and aftertaste of the whiskey are nicely balanced, one can speak of a good product. It may be that the whiskey is not entirely to your liking, but this does not mean that you are dealing with a bad distillate.

Feel free to experiment!

Have you enjoyed the whiskey, you can  you can add some water with a pipette or a teaspoon. After the drink has been gently rolled for a short time, the entire procedure can be repeated. Often by adding a little water, the smell and taste of the whiskey is magnified in a spectacular way and sometimes even dramatically  changed character. What once seemed closed suddenly seems to open like a flower.


Drinking a strong coffee and eating bitter chocolate can also enhance some whiskeys. Feel free to experiment with a date, dried fig, candied orange peel or dried meat or fish; some cheeses can often be combined well with whiskey.  


As stated before, the above is only a suggestion and one can choose another method on the basis of one's own experience or other insights. Above all, it is a pleasure to have fun!

"Slainte Mhath"

(Taste and enjoy)

bottom of page