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For the whisky lover

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 behold what is good'; obviously you decide for yourself exactly what that good 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.

Take your time.

If you are somewhat serious about researching whisky, you should preferably enjoy your tasting session alone and in a well lit and well ventilated space. Some professional tasters suggest the best time is at eleven o'clock in the morning or at least between breakfast and lunch. No flavors of any meal should be still lingering on the palate.

The science on tasting is inconclusive but common sense dictates that one should only undertake a session some time after a meal, one should be well rested and most important, in the very best of spirits.

Provide for a glass of water, a teaspoon to help dilute your dram and pen and paper to jot down your notes; surely you wish to log details of the whisky's you have tasted and are about to taste. We predict years of fun ahead and someday in the future 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.

Eyeball your whisky

The taste of whiskey is largely determined by its aroma. It is therefore important to take some time to nose your drink extensively but not too aggressively; deeply snorting your whisky will numb your sensors.

Once poured- preferably in advance -  first take a long hard look at your drink; it's appearance and how the whiskey moves when it is rolled around in the glass can provide you with some information on what you may expect.

Just by looking at the whisky you will gain i 

Is she filtered or not? What casks are used for maturinging? 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 spirit.

Time for experimentation.

Once you have enjoyed a first few sips neat you may try adding a little water with perhaps a teaspoon. After you have gently rolled the mixture around in the glass for a short while, the entire procedure of smelling and tasting can be repeated. Now, often by adding only a little water, the smell and taste of the whisky can become magnified in a spectacular way and sometimes even dramatically changed character. What once seemed tightly closed suddenly seems to open like a flower revealing unsuspected aromas and flavors.


Drinking a cup of strong coffee and eating bitter chocolate beforehand can also enhance your whisky experience. Feel free to experiment with a date, dried fig, candied orange peel or dried meat or fish; some cheeses go very well with whisky.  


As stated before, the above is only a friendly 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)

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