What are the Steps to Tasting Whisky?

by Mike Phillips

When reading whisky, beer or wine reviews, you’ll often find the terms Nose, Palate and Finish” used in the review.

To the newer whisky drinker, these terms may be slightly confusing. Below, we’ll discuss what each term means and how it is important to whisky tasting.

Nose

When a whisky review refers to the “nose” it is referring to the aroma the drink emits when smelling the spirit. Since so much of your sense of taste is determined by your sense of smell, this step in whisky tasting is very important.

Whenever whisky tasting, always make sure to smell the drink once or twice before sipping. This is a great way to “prep” your sense of taste to explore all of the different hints the whisky may have. You’ll normally be able to detect a lot more of the subtle notes this way, such as vanilla, banana, fruit, citrus, etc…

Palate

After nosing, the palate step of whisky tasting refers to the actual sense of taste you experience when sipping the whisky. Here, you’ll generally notice the more obvious sweet, smoky, oaky, sour tastes, etc…

These flavors will be the most pronounced, but will be complemented by the flavors as detected in the nosing step.

You’ll likely detect more tastes in your second sip, as your senses will be adjusting to the taste of alcohol during the first stip.

Finish

The third and final step of whisky tasting refers to the aftertaste, or the feeling the spirit leaves in your mouth once it has been swallowed. You may notice a lingering or long finish (flavors that stick around for awhile), maybe a strong or spicy finish (where you experience more of a burn in aftertaste), or maybe something sweeter or spicier.

You may often experience some of the notes from the nose or palate in the finish stage, or maybe even something completely different. All three steps greatly add to the experience of the taste and makes the whole process more enjoyable.

Any notes, tips or techniques to whisky tasting? Let us know in the comments below.

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