Whiskey Connoisseurs – The Do’s and Don’ts for Becoming a Whiskey Sommelier

What is a Whiskey Expert Called?

 A whiskey expert is called a whiskey sommelier. This article won’t teach you how to become one of those. However, it will help you get one step closer to knowing more that the average Joe about whiskey.

How do you go from whiskey lover to whiskey connoisseur?

It’s a process that involves reading, education, and sampling lots and lots of whiskey. That’s our kind of hobby.

If you’re just getting started on your journey to whiskey mastery, take note of these do’s and don’ts.

Do: Taste Frequently

With the complex and expansive world of whiskeys at your disposal, there’s a lot to sample. If you’re going to make a dent in what’s out there, you have to taste frequently.

Aw, boo. Poor you.

Tasting often will train your palate and help you pick out the aromas and flavors in each different bottle. You may get to the point where you can identify not only the style but also the region where the whiskey came from. That’s one helluva party trick. If you need help here is our guide on how to taste whiskey.

Do: Expand Your Palate

You may be a Japanese whiskey enthusiast, but don’t neglect the other types of whiskey on offer! Scotch, bourbon, Irish whiskey, American whiskey, and everything in between all bring their own unique flavors and finishes to the table. A true pro needs to understand the differences and similarities between them all.

Do: Use the Right Whiskey Glass

To get the full experience, you have to get a good whiff of what’s in your glass. The right glass for the job looks like a tall, thin snifter with a short stem. The stem lets you hold the glass without warming it, and the conical shape will direct all those scents right to your nose.

Do: Taste With Your Nose First

Give your glass a gentle swirl to release the aromas and take a gentle whiff. Can you pull out any particular scents, like caramel, oak, raisins, or hay?

A whiskey tasting wheel can help you identify what you’re smelling and tasting. It’s a tool that organizes flavors and scents into eight flavor categories: peaty, floral, fruity, cereal, winey, woody, sulfury, and feinty. Some of these are more desirable than others. Sulfur, for example, is best when it’s absent.

Do: Add a Few Drops of Water

According to the pros over at Master of Malt, you should taste the whiskey on its own and take note of its mouthfeel, structure, and finish. Then you should add a few drops of water and taste it again. The water will open up the flavor and help you suss out its complexities.

Do: Keep Track of Your Thoughts

A whiskey journal, whether handwritten or electronic, will help you keep track of what you had and what you thought of it. If you’re concerned about remembering what was what, you can also make notes about when and where you sampled it. When you read your entries, you’ll recreate a mental image of the day that can bring back more tangible memories of the dram.

Don’t: Overindulge

If you’re making whiskey your hobby, it can be a little too easy to spend your evenings in a state of near — or total — inebriation. That’s no good for anyone.

If you’re getting blotto, you won’t remember anything about that beautiful Japanese whiskey that you tried, and that would be a real shame. So keep a handle on your intake and taste to experience, not to get drunk.

Don’t: Be a Snob

See someone down the bar happily enjoying what is — in your eyes — an inferior blended whiskey? Don’t be a single-malt snob. Or any other kind of snob.

You may be passionate about your drink of choice, but everyone is just drinking what they like. If we all liked the same things, the world would get awfully boring.

Don’t: Stress

Tasting whiskey should be fun! Don’t stress too much about “doing it right.” Just sample that luxurious whiskey when you get the chance. This brown elixir is one of the best spirits known to humankind, and we’re just lucky we get to drink it.

Do: Be a grown up and get a flight paddle

If you are serious about your whiskey, you should be serious about how you serve it.  If you are doing a tasting for your friends or family then invest in a flight paddle. No whiskey connoisseur would do a tasting with out one. Plus if you have one of those caves that men like to hang out in then you can hang it over your bar as decoration. 

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JJ Smoak

Brooklyn native, accent-having, travel lover, wordsmith and bud enthusiast. Versed from the streets of NYC, mixed with some world influence, writer/editor and medical user extraordinaire, JJ is here to tell you like it is and guide you to the finest. Brooklyn's favorite feminine stoner, your neighborhood contributor, wrapping leaves like a bandage and bringing you along for the ride.

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