When tasting wine, we all know that one of the first crucial steps in the tasting process is swirling. Believe it or not, there is actually a scientific reason why we swirl our wine before we sip it — although we’re aware that many tasters take it to the extreme and look completely insane. Swirling the wine in front of you introduces oxygen to the wine, releasing aromas that have been bottled up, quite literally, for an extended period of time. So when it comes to whiskey, should we follow the same process?
In short, the answer is yes. Swirling whiskey will provide the same benefits to the the beverage as it does for wine. Oxygen releases aromas in whiskey the same way it does for vino; in fact, most whiskeys have been cramped up in a bottle for a longer period of time than our everyday bottles of wine, making swirling all the more necessary. The initial shock of oxygen will allow a fuller, truer expression of the whiskey to come to life.
Before sniffing, let the whiskey settle for a few seconds so as not to bombard your sinuses with a huge punch of boozy aromas. Considering that whiskey is much higher in alcohol than wine, those first initial sniffs post-swirl can be quite potent. Unlike shoving your schnoz into the glass as you would with wine, hold the glass just below your nose and take a light whiff, three to four times. The first whiff might be too alcohol-heavy, preventing you from picking up any aromas of the actual whiskey. By the third or fourth whiff, your nose should be more acclimated to the high-proof spirit and you’ll start to be able to make some preliminary identifications: Is what you’re smelling fruit-forward, smoky, or spicy? Does the whiskey smell fresh, rustic, or earthy? These initial aromas will allow you to further deduce what your whiskey may be.
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Looking at the whiskey in front of you is just as important, too! Pigment could indicate how long your whiskey has been aged, while the viscosity, identifiable by the tears dripping down the sides of the glass, will indicate the body. Wine and whiskey tasting procedures are actually quite similar, though we’d recommend having some plain crackers on hand during the latter.