How do you taste Scotch?

Most experts agree that Scotch works best when you put it in your mouth. That’s the five cent version, at least. The focus of Scotch tasting is to understand the complexities of the spirit’s nose (odor), palate (taste), and feel. These are the products of volatile (easily transferred into vapor) compounds in the liquid. To maximize the experience, drink Scotch at room temperature, not iced or refrigerated. Too warm, and the volatiles that give Scotch its complex flavors evaporate too quickly. Too cold, and the flavors are muted. With some Scotches, a small amount of water can be added to bring out a different flavor profile. Distillers will often note this on their bottlings. The coloring doesn’t matter in the slightest.

Take time to smell the Scotch. Enjoy it. Some Scotches, especially Island malts, are heavily peated – the barley is exposed to turf smoke – which adds layers of smoky tones, and also carry briny notes from the sea salt absorbed by the grain. Lowland Scotches can exhibit grassy notes on the nose similar to Sauvignon Blanc wine.

Sip the Scotch. Take it into your mouth, swish it onto your gums, and breath deeply. Tasting is as much an olfactory experience as it is gustatory, if not more. This brings the palate into play alongside the nose.

Swallow slowly, and observe the finish. Do flavors linger after the initial nose dissipates? Does your taste for it change with the season (normal) or dependent on what clothes you’re wearing (not normal)? Scotch tasting, like life,  is a journey – don’t rush it. Take the time to explore.

Note: Scotch tasting is highly subjective. All tasting notes on this site are our own, but they are by no means complete. Part of of the enjoyment in exploring Scotch is finding ways to describe what you smell, taste and feel. Tastes change over time, ours included, so we may certainly update this page as we become more experienced.