Editor’s note: Welcome to a brand new blog series featuring Old Dominick Head Distiller Alex Castle. Every other week, we’ll share new posts from Alex on spirits, the distilling process and more. Cheers!
Last week I had the pleasure of hosting a few folks at the Distillery for a special tasting of our one-year whiskey, and it got me thinking about how to have that perfect first taste.
I’ll be the first to tell you that trying a new spirit can be pretty intimidating. If you’re with a group, you can feel all this pressure to analyze what you’re tasting – am I supposed to know that this one tastes more earthy and this one is more floral? I’m too busy wondering why it burns so much! – but I want to take the pressure off with a few easy tips for a great first sip.
These steps will help you navigate a tasting of just about any spirit – but especially whiskey.
- You’ve probably done this with a glass of wine before – first, give it a swirl! In fact, if you know how to taste wine, you can apply a lot of those same principles and methods to tasting anything. What I like to do with whiskey, vodka, or gin, is to swirl it first to open it up and get those vapors flowing.
- Next up: get nosey with it. When you nose the spirit, make sure your mouth is just slightly open as you inhale. Your senses of taste and smell are very tied to one another, and if you keep your mouth open a bit while you breathe in the aroma you’ll probably feel the sensation of tasting it, too!
- Finally, it’s time to taste. Especially with whiskey, when you take that first sip, hold it in your mouth and let it coat your tongue. You’ll pick up different notes in the spirit from the different regions of your taste buds. And when you swallow, pay attention to that feeling! With whiskey, you want to feel the warmth as it travels all the way down.
- A final whiskey pro tip — I like to approach tasting whiskey in three parts: first, I taste it as bottled (the way I walked you through above) – then, I cut it with a little bit of water. This opens up a whole new layer of aroma and flavor. Finally, I like to add an ice cube to it – temperature, like smell, can really change how the whiskey is perceived.
And if you need the perfect soundtrack for the experience, here’s a little something I put together for you – it features some of my favorites, but also some Memphis artists you might not know. Press play and see how this complements that next sip!