An Essential Guide to Whisky Tasting

A photo of a bottle of whisky and fireplace

Whisky tasting is a niche for some, and most people will tell you that the perfect whisky has this or has that or is between this age and that age. The truth is, it’s all subject to personal taste. But what really makes a whisky a whisky? In our essential guide to whisky tasting we’ve picked things which might help you work out what’s for you and what’s not when it comes to this fine art.

Whisky Tasting Experts

The first thing you need to know, is someone who says they’re an expert when it comes to whisky tasting and then follows to share their opinion on what a good whisky is not an expert.

The truth is there is no such thing as an expert .. or even the perfect whisky. A whisky is a whisky and will appeal to different people with different tastes. Some people will tell you never to mix a whisky with anything other than water. While others will happily tell you their favourite whisky cocktail recipes.

Often, you will find the the locals will be more than willing to share their favourite malts with you, who have had several years to explore the tastes of the local distilleries.

There is no such thing as a double or triple malt

Anybody who tries to sell you a “double malt” or a “triple malt” is having you on! There is no such thing.

Single malt simply means a whisky unblended with any other malt. So, anything other than a single malt is a blend. No ifs or buts about it! 

It’s all about the barrel!

This might sound a bit cliche, but it’s true. The kind of barrel and where it is from has an impact on the flavour and composition of the whisky. Usually whisky distilleries will use barrels that were previously used for alcohols such as sherry and therefore soaked in flavour. Furthermore, casks are usually made of oak.

The Key Malt Whiskies 

The five most common types of Scotch Whisky, named after the area in Scotland where they are distilled: 

  • Islay Malts
  • Highland Malts
  • Strathspey Malts
  • Lowland Malts
  • Campbeltown Malts

Each of these whiskies have their own signature taste. Of course, a trip to Islay is incomplete without a whisky tasting session or two! Islay itself is home to eight whisky distilleries and with copious supplies of peat and fresh water on hand, Islay malts have arguably the strongest taste out of all the malt whiskies in the world. Islay malts are well known for their dry finish and particularly those from the southern part of the island are known for having quite the bite too!

So without further adieu, we beckon you to come join us on the beautiful island of Islay and use this tasting guide to help you begin exploring the wonderful whisky offering of Islay!