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How To Drink Whiskey

How to drink whiskey – that’s a common question we hear from people wanting to learn the proper way to experience the agua vitae (water of life) as it’s known. Of course, the simple answer to this is, “Drink it however you like!” But the long answer is that the “how” begins before you even purchase a bottle. So let’s discuss how to drink whiskey more thoroughly in our new post below.
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Choosing Your Whiskey

To begin with, you’ll want to decide which type of whiskey to drink.

There are many types of whiskeys produced all over the world. Its made in 20 countries and it’s enjoyed in over 175 countries. But we all have our flavor preferences based on our palate, so it’s interesting to explore whiskeys from various regions of the world. For example, you may find that Irish whiskey is more subtle in flavors and more pleasant to ease into if you’re newer to whiskey tasting.

You might also find that Scottish whisky or Scotch is packed with intensity and flavor, yet the characteristics vary greatly depending on the region and the aging techniques. Likewise, you’ll find a wide variety of flavors in American whiskeys, such as bourbon, which comes with the pride of being American-born.

You’ll also find distinctions in Japanese whiskey, similar to Scotch in its production methods, but tastes best in mixed drinks. Canadian whiskey, made from mostly corn and rye, is mellow and easier to drink than some other more intense whiskeys.

Tennessee whiskey is mostly like a bourbon, but with an extra filtering step, giving it a more distinct taste.

Rye whiskey is made with a high amount of rye, so it tends to be spicier rather than sweet, which you can dilute slightly with a splash of water.

Single malt whiskey is made from only one batch, so it’s typically a high-quality spirit with intense flavors, while blended whiskey is ideal for cocktails.

Reading Labels

Ok, so maybe you’re not sure exactly which type of whiskey to try. Whiskey is a pretty broad category, so familiarizing yourself with the label can give you a clue or two about which one to choose. It’s easy to read a label, and it’s fascinating to learn exactly who made it, where it was made, how long it’s been aged, the ABV – Alcohol by Volume, and the proof (which is the alcohol by volume times two).

If you see the term “Bottled in Bond,” this refers to American-made spirits that have been aged and bottled according to a set of legal regulations in the Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits as initially laid out in the Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897.

You can also tell if the company listed on the label actually made the whiskey or it was bottled elsewhere by looking for the words “Distilled by” or “Distilled in.” If the whiskey is a third party’s product, it may follow the distillation description with the words “Bottled by,” giving the name of the bottling company, broker, or brand of the bottle.

You might also notice that some of the unique qualities of the spirit are in its name. Look out for the words straight, single malt, blended, cask strength, rye, or aged in to give you clues of the production process and possible flavor characteristics. Learn more about how to read a label here.

Choose Your Whiskey Glass

The glass you choose may depend on how you choose to drink it. For example, if you want to sip it neat or over ice, you have a couple of options. The Glencairn glass is long and wide at the bottom, designed to enhance the aromas and flavors of whiskey. It was actually created for Scotch drinkers, but it can be used for any whiskey. You could also use a tumbler- a short glass with a heavy bottom. This is the glass you commonly see being used in movies and TV shows. Finally, for a cocktail, you’ll want to use a tall, slim, straight-sided glass called a highball.

How To Drink Whiskey

Now, let’s explore a few ways to enjoy whiskey. Nearly all whiskey-makers recommend that you sip a dram neat at first, so you can get a good feel of the intended flavor characteristics. But there are a few other ways to drink whiskey that we’ll mention below.


Now that you have your Glencairn or tumbler glass, let’s take a moment to observe the whiskey in its bottle. Note its color, how it clings to the side of the bottle, its thickness. Pour the spirit gently into your glass. A standard whiskey pour is 1.5 ounces for a shot, 2 ounces for a neat or rocks pour, and 3 ounces for a double. In this case, you’re drinking it straight or neat. So you’ll pour about 2 ounces. Swish it around in your glass and take in the aromas through your nose. The longer it sits, the more it opens, the more scents you’ll be able to detect. Take a sip and allow the whiskey to roll across your tongue. Swallow, and enjoy the after-flavors or the finish before taking another sip.


For a whiskey cocktail, you’ll have chosen a highball glass or even a traditional cocktail glass. Because whiskey has such a wide range of flavors and textures, you can use it in many different cocktails and recipes. Some classic cocktails include a Whisky Sour and Scotch Old Fashioned to bring out a complex flavor profile. Whether you like your cocktail sweet, spicy, sour, or bitter, whiskey makes a terrific choice. We have a few whiskey cocktail recipes you can try that will please any palate.


If whiskey is a bit too strong or intense on its own, you can add just a splash of water to open up the flavors as the liquids combine. Again, it’s best to experiment as you go, but remember to go slowly- only add a few drops at a time. You don’t want to dilute it too much and lose the range of flavors.


Adding ice to whiskey instantly makes it a more refreshing experience, but it also changes the flavor and dilutes it. To find a balance that works for you, consider the amount and shape of the ice, as well as the amount of whiskey in your glass. The more ice in the glass or the bigger the cube, the slower it’ll melt. And the impact will be greater on a single serving than a double. It’s recommended to use “ice balls” instead of ice cubes because they melt significantly slower.

In Summary

You can see that there are many ways to enjoy your whiskey-sipping experience. The most important thing is to be open to different possibilities. You’re on a spirited journey where there are no limits or ends. Be sure to try all kinds of whiskeys from all over the world, and drink them in various ways. This will help expand your palate while training it to recognize nuances in flavors and textures. If you like to learn more about a whiskey’s story, where it came from, how it was produced, and the inspiration behind its creation, remember we send informational 101s to our Club members each month. Cheers, and happy sipping!

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