Three tips for whisky tasting order…

For those new to Whisky Lady in India, many of the notes come from tasting sessions of a small private whisky group based in Mumbai.

For those not familiar with the approach our whisky tasting club takes… here’s a snapshot:

  • Meet once a month, same time, same day and week of the month
  • Rotate hosts with the host responsible for ‘curating’ the evening
  • Taste blind!

Which means only one person (i.e. the whisky contributor/host) knows what is being served. That puts him / her firmly in the ‘driver’s seat’ as far as whisky selection and tasting order.

Over the years, we’ve tended to apply three simple guidelines. They may seem obvious but can also produce surprises too.

Hello peat! (The Whisky Exchange)

Hello peat! (The Whisky Exchange)


Naturally we pay attention to peat levels – it is hard to appreciate an exquisite delicate grain whisky after a peat monster!

However usually, the host also has not tried the whisky before our session so relies on the distiller or bottler tasting notes or others reviews – sometimes the descriptions are a bit misleading.

Chichibu 2009 French Oak Cask

When 60% seemed like high 40s%! (Whisky Lady)


We may pay attention to alcohol strength – you don’t want to whallop your guests with a bold cask strength whisky at 60+% then follow with a wimpy 40% strength. However when all the whiskies are in the 45 – 55 % range, this is less of a factor.

We’ve also been surprised by some incredibly smooth cask strength whiskies that are highly deceptive in their alcohol level – one time we guessed at most 48% and it turned to be 63.1%!

Whisky age trivia (Scotchfest 2015)

Whisky age trivia (Scotchfest 2015)


Another way to order whiskies for tasting is by age. Generally, young whiskies with an interesting new make spirit have some character but are still developing whereas there are certain levels of nuance and complexity that really only comes with maturity.

If the young upstart comes after a grand old dame, you may miss appreciating some of what the youngster has to offer. However equally, we’ve had a 25 year old be completely outclassed by a young No Age Statement (NAS) whisky.

So… while these are tips that generally work, half the fun is discovering how in the world of whisky, there are exceptions to every rule!

Additionally, it isn’t one factor alone but a combination that helps make the tasting order decision.

Most important is simply to go on a journey of discovery and explore what works for you!

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6 thoughts on “Three tips for whisky tasting order…

  1. I would love to see a blog on Whisky tasting for beginners – as you know I am a total novice but a fan (maybe too much as I tend to gulp it down haha!) I went for a wine tasting class when I visited a Welsh vineyard and it was fantastic to learn how to appreciate my other favourite drink in new ways. It would be great to do the same with Whisky! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m planning a few more posts on whisky tasting tips… and part of the fun of the Whisky Ladies group is we have a range of ‘experience/exposure’ levels from those who have gone to industry events, umpteen distillery tours around the world to those who do like whisky but are newer to discovering the range and complexity that is out there.

      Liked by 1 person

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