Tasting is a total experience that involves all five senses: The sight of the single malts color; the smell of its fragrance; the sound of the subtle splash as it is swirled in the glass; the taste and feel in the mouth. The glass should be white and clear. The shape of a sherry glass is best for nosing although a tumbler is acceptable. When comparing malts we suggest you cover the glass since the flavor can change as it breathes. When adding water use only a few drops of unflavored still bottled water to release the aroma and taste.
Hold your glass to the light and admire color, depth, and clarity. Colors come from the wood; darker can denote greater maturity or amount of sherry. Color has no relationship to flavor or strength.
Add a few drops of water, swirl the glass and sniff cautiously to collect the bouquet, then note your first impressions. Take a couple of deep sniffs of fresh air. Swirl again, then plunge your nose into the glass and sniff with your mouth open. Take further notes. What is the early impact of character? Is the bouquet pleasant and flavorful or medicinal? Are there complex layers of flavor, or is it fairly straightforward? Is it light or pungent? It is dry or musty? How smoky is it? Is it sweet or sour?
Mouth-Feel or Texture
Take a large sip. Roll it around on your tongue. Analyze the intensity and smoothness. Note your impressions. Then decide on the relationship of the flavors on the palette to the nose. Malts can be divided into three types of textures – Mouth-Coating, which means it’s rather tactile and viscous, perhaps even oily; Mouth-Warming, which is rather spirity; and Mouth-Furring, which is astringent and dry.
Roll the Scotch around the mouth so that it comes in contact with the four primary locations of taste on the tongue. Sweetness is best sensed by the tip of the tongue. Saltiness is best sensed on the sides. Sourness is best tasted on the top edges, and bitterness is sensed on the back.
After swallowing, note the taste that lingers. Is it a rapid finish or a long, lingering fade? Is there anything new? Is it pleasant or unpleasant? Now set your pencil down. Pour a second dram, and “revitalize your soul.”