How To: Truly Taste and Appreciate a Fine Whiskey with this Three-Step Technique

created at: 08/03/2011

There’s a familiar song and dance to tasting wine: swirl the glass, stick your nose all in it, slurp it so it sprays into your mouth. But, other drinks can be equally complex, and also deserve an appraisal technique to get the most out of your experience. We’ve covered the five-steps towards fully experiencing your beer, and today, we’re looking at the best way to taste a fine whiskey, be it bourbon, Scotch, or rye.  

Dan Tullio, who has been with Canadian Club for 30 years and is known amongst his peers as the ‘Godfather of Whisky,’ offers these tips for tasting, drinking, and truly enjoying fine whisky.

Step 1: Color Pour 0.75 oz of room temperature Canadian Club into a clear Tulip Shaped glass. Notice the color of the whisky – the darker the whisky, the longer the product has been aged. The spirit should be clear and sparkle.

Step 2: Aroma Some of the flavor compounds found in whisky are volatile and the smell is part of the experience. Hold the glass in your hands to warm up the whisky. Put the mouth of the glass an inch from your nose and, with your lips slightly parted, inhale. You are looking for fruity aromas. Take note of what you smell and try to describe it. Bring the glass closer to your nose; smell and you will get hints of spices, such as pepper and clove, even sweet aromas such as caramel and butterscotch. Before you taste, add a tiny bit of room temperature, good quality bottled water to your glass to open up or release the flavor of the whisky. The water will also dilute the concentrated spirit somewhat, allowing you to taste the complex flavors more clearly at a slightly reduced strength.

Step 3: Taste Now, take a sip of the whisky and roll it around your palate. You should notice sweetness on the tip of your tongue, bitterness at the back as you swallow, acidity at the sides and, when you’re tasting a Scotch, saltiness on the top. (The saltiness in Scotch comes from the barrels having been aged in Scotland, which is near salt bodies of water.) All of these sensations should occur for the spirit to be called well- balanced.

Then, have some more, or try one of Dan’s signature cocktails. 

Canadian Club® Sour

  • 1.5 parts Canadian Club Classic 12 
  • Juice of half a lemon 
  • Teaspoon of sugar 
  • Garnish: Maraschino cherry or lemon wedge 

Directions: Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add Canadian Club Classic 12, lemon juice and sugar and shake. Strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice. Garnish with a Maraschino cherry or lemon wedge.

The Millionaire’s Manhattan

  • 1 part Harvey’s Bristol Cream 
  • 2 parts Canadian Club® Classic 12 
  • 2 dashes Orange Bitters 
  • Maraschino cherry for garnish

Directions: Fill a lowball glass with ice and add ingredients. Stir and garnish with maraschino cherry.

Thanks to Canadian Club and Dan Tullio for providing tips, as well as complimentary samples to the ManMade HQ. That was a good day at work.