Whisky Scotch Scottish Scotland Whiskey Alcohol Drinking

The first thing one must do when drinking ‘scotch’ is to make sure that it is indeed, scotch. Something calling itself “a Scottish whiskey” is likely neither Scottish nor a good whisky. A note declaring “distilled and bottled in Scotland” is a different matter.

Drinking from a tulip shaped glass, or a snifter, is the best way to enjoy a god whisky. There are glasses designed just for whisky, however, if you cannot find one of these then anything with a wider base than top will suffice. The narrow top allows the aromas to gather and will prevent you from taking gulps of whisky, forcing you to sip and savour it; the only good way to enjoy any good whisky. Sip, savour and wait for the ‘finish’ or aftertaste.

Those, I’m afraid, are the only certainties when trying a scotch whisky for the first time. Do not let anyone persuade you that there is a single way to enjoy all whiskies; there is not. Every whisky is different. Every single one of them. Your own palate will also prefer one way of drinking to another. However, to get started on the drinking…

Smell your whiskey once it is in the glass. Think about those smells, try to describe them. Is it smokey, peaty, crisp, heady, fruity? The more time you put into considering your whiskey, the more you will get out of it (and the longer it will last). Swill it around the glass, take another sniff. Notice anything different?

Now look at your whisky, let it swirl gently around the glass. See how it clings to the sides and creates little rivulets? The mark of a fine scotch. Now, again, try to describe what it looks like. Is it clear, honey coloured, pale, dark?

Here is where we get a little more complicated. Most scotch whiskys are best served at room temperature, however, some people will prefer them cold. Some will be more appealing neat, some with a little water and others with ice. Some scotch works best with a lot of water and ice; a way of drinking whisky that is popular in Japan and known as “mizuwari.” However, there is no telling exactly how you will prefer any particular scotch; so start neat and work from there. If you are in a bar then ask the bartender for advice on serving, but do not take his word on the best way to drink any whisky; just try it out for yourself.

Personally, I prefer most scotch at room temperature with a little water, but there are exceptions. Contrary to popular belief, a few drops of water does not dilute the taste of scotch. It does, in fact, enhance many whiskys. The addition of pure, cold water will allow new flavours and aromas to be released, changing the taste and bouquet. You can actually see the reaction take place in the glass as the water hits the whisky. This will not always improve the whisky for your particular palate, but it is worth testing, just to discover the vast difference it can make.

The taste of a scotch will not only depend upon how long it has been in the cask (though the length of time spent in the bottle will change nothing) but also where that cask was. An Islay whisky will likely be smokey and heavy. A Highland will probably be light and crisp. A Speyside might be salty. Once you know what kind of taste you prefer (I like a peaty, smokey scotch) then you can look out for other whiskies from the same area, or with a similar description.

Just remember the basics; start neat and warm. If the scotch has been served to you cold, let your hands warm it.

Do not stick to one particular way of drinking.

Do not be afraid to admit to liking a mixed whisky, some can be better than the odd single malt.

Work your way around Scotland and do not stick to one type of scotch; they are all worth trying out and each will give you different experience.



  1. Scotch whisky
  2. Dandelion Greens Health Benefits
  3. Know your Whiskey: The Difference between Bourbon, Scotch, Rye …

Image Credit