Aroma kit flirting…

All three of our whisky tasting groups in Mumbai have WhatsAp groups to informally exchange updates, insights, ideas, teasing and more.

A few years back, an image of a whisky aroma kit made its appearance… with a query “Should we try and buy one of these?”

If the hype is to be believed… using one of these kits will train you to “nose like an expert!!”

Now I don’t know about you, but I have no ambitions of being an expert. Neither do I want to spout “cookie cutter” impressions of a whisky.

What I enjoy most about tasting solo and with others is the journey of discovery. How an aroma reminds us of something else, evoking a memory, another context, another experience.

My nosing and tasting references also fluctuate wildly from early days in Canada to a long term sustained relationship with India, with a few dash of many other countries influences too.

My first introduction to a kit was in Winnipeg at the Whisky Bar where I was too engrossed in my whisky to want to mess it up sniffing a sample of ‘decay’.

My next opportunity was at a fellow whisky adventurers home, which began with a guessing game – sniffing “blind” to see if we could figure what it was supposed to be.

Since then, has that same kit been pulled out, used to hone our skills at recognizing different aromas?

No, We’ve just gone back to our original style of simply sniffing and discussing without referring to an aroma kit. So much for using it to train us into experts!

Here’s what others have to say:

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Whisky palate cleansers or palate pleasers?

With our original whisky tasting group, we are very strict about what can be served with our whiskies – just a few slices of cucumber and perhaps plain bread sticks or crackers – with plenty of water to rinse before we repeat our sampling process with the next whisky.

Palate Cleanser

However with our whisky ladies, we have a bit more fun with mixing and matching, blending sipping without accompaniment then experimenting with different delights like fruit, cheese and chocolate… perhaps a thali of chocolate delights?


Both work – it just depends on whether your aim is an evening of the purest sampling or playing around with pairings.

Anyone have firm notions of what to accompany (or not) your whisky sipping adventures?

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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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You seriously spit out whisky?

Was the incredulous response when my partner described to a new acquaintance our ‘ritual’ in blind sampling whiskies.

Spit your 1st sip…?

When our monthly group first started our tasting adventures in February 2011, we had a ‘rule’ to spit out the 1st sip.

Now, I must admit, somewhere along the way we mostly abandoned this rule. However, there is a very clear rationale behind it.

Why spit?

It is all about acquainting your palate with the high alcohol content. In short, you let the first sip go so it helps clear the way to enjoy the real flavours. Think of it as calibrating the palate for the delights to come.

Keep it coming…

As most of us whisky aficionados taste whiskies for fun not funds, if you have lined up more than three whiskies in an evening, a certain amount of healthy pacing is in order too.

Psychologically using the spittoon for the 1st sip helps you slow down, distill the different elements before you have that 1st swallow that coats your throat with whisky goodness.

Whaddya do?

Any others adhere to this recommended approach or merrily abandon it in favour of gleefully gulping the 1st quaff?

Whisky sipping...

Whisky sipping…

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