Did you know that Jimmy’s Bar & Lounge offers a menu of over 100 different whiskys? Curiously, there’s at least 100 theories on how to drink whisky to match them. Some of these theories could be considered a little questionable. That’s why we’re excited about World Whisky Day 2018. It’s a great chance for us to share our whisky knowledge and to set the record straight on the subject of how to drink whisky. So in roughly chronological order, let’s begin.

What sort of glass should you use?

Yes, when you’re considering how to drink whisky, the type of glass does matter. It should be your first consideration. If you’re focused on analysing the taste of the whisky, choose a glass that has a broad bottom and a narrow opening. This channels the whisky’s aroma in the direction of your nostrils. The proper name for a whisky glass is a snifter, but you could also use a wine glass that’s the same shape. Some whiskey glasses even come with a little plate for the top. It helps to trap the aroma and direct it toward your nose. If you’re just enjoying a familiar glass of scotch on ice, or scotch served with a mixer, then it’s perfectly acceptable to use a tumbler.

How to use your nose to drink whisky

Okay – you don’t actually drink the whisky through your nose. The nose is the name used to refer to the aromas that you inhale before the whisky touches your lips. There are many characteristics that will give you clues about the taste of the whisky. You start by pouring a decent splash of whisky into that narrow-mouthed glass. You then swirl it about the glass for a little while to release the vapours that evaporation causes. After it’s poured, whisky needs a bit of time to spring to life, and the swirling helps this along.

After you’ve had a little swirl, give the liquid a moment to settle and observe the colour. This doesn’t have much to do with your nose, but it can also give you a few cues about the flavours to expect. You often see people who drink wine holding their glass up to a white napkin. The same technique works with whisky. This can look a bit pretentious, but you can pull it off.

Once the whisky has settled (or you simply can’t wait any longer) stick your nose in and have a sniff. It’s a good idea to do this a few times, because on the first occasion, all you’ll smell is alcohol. It takes a while to get past that and to observe the other aromas. Words that often get associated with whisky are:

  • Smoky
  • Fruity
  • Spicy
  • Floral

How to drink whisky and really taste it

So by now you’re probably dying to take a big swallow of that gorgeous amber liquid. If you want to taste it, however, you’re going to have to exercise just a little more restraint. The flavour of the whisky is what’s referred to as the palate. Instead of knocking it back, you need to do a little swishing. Not the ‘Listerine’ variety of swishing – it’s more like passing the liquid around your mouth. As you do so, try to isolate the things you’re tasting before you allow the whisky to slide to the back of your throat.

As you swallow, you will continue to get new flavours from the whisky. Some of them will match the aromas that you picked up on while you were sniffing the whisky. There will also be more complex flavours or sensations, making it taste:

  • Citrusy
  • Creamy
  • Herbal
  • Malty
  • Nutty
  • Oaky
  • Peaty
  • Peppery
  • Salty
  • Woody
  • Winey

Everyone will pick up something different, and it can take time to learn how to isolate the flavours. Stick with it, and don’t worry if you can’t put a label on them – the most important thing is to enjoy the flavour.


The finish of whisky

The taste that you experience after you’ve swallowed the whisky is known as the finish. This is what gets whisky afficionados so fired up about their favourite drink. They believe that the complexity of the finish is what sets it apart from all other spirits. Once you’re past the slight burning sensation, many flavours you didn’t initially taste can reveal themselves. Some of these are very subtle. Other can remain on your tongue for a long time after you’ve swallowed. This is referred to as the length of the finish.

Is it OK to add water or ice to whisky?

You will always get mixed answers to this question. In the end, it just comes down to personal preference. We suggest trying it straight up first. After this, try adding a little water, because this can reveal more flavour and complexity. Use caution when you add ice, however. It drops the temperature of the whisky, which can stop aromas and flavours from being expressed.

What else can I do with whisky?

Besides the obvious delights of drinking whisky, there are the other applications. From toothache cure to ice-cream topping, whisky can literally pop up anywhere. Chefs at The Westport Club will be trying lots of fun things on World Whisky Day. These include Whisky Chocolate Mousse at Hastings Coffee Co., and Pecan & Whisky Pie at Aqua. World Whisky Day 2018 also coincides with birthday celebrations at Jimmy’s Bar. We’ll keep you posted on social media about all the activities we have planned to celebrate.

Some whisky recipes that might inspire ideas on how to drink whisky

The Classic Manhattan


  • 1 cup whisky
  • ⅔ cup Noilly Prat Rouge vermouth
  • 4 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 4 thin orange slices
  • 4 fresh cherries

To serve:

Combine the whisky, vermouth, and Angostura bitters in a mixing jug.

Divide the mixture evenly among 4 ice-filled tumblers.

Garnish with an orange slice twisted around a cherry and secured with a cocktail stick.

The Classic Old-Fashioned


  • 4 teaspoons raw sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Angostura bitters
  • 8 teaspoons luke-warm water
  • 2 cups whisky
  • 4 thin orange slices
  • 4 Maraschino cherries

To serve:

Stir sugar, bitters, and water in a mixing jug until most of the sugar is dissolved.

Add 12 ice cubes, and pour the whisky over the top. Stir for 30 seconds.

Divide the mixture evenly among 4 tumblers. You might need to use a teaspoon to distribute the ice cubes,

Garnish with an orange slice twisted around a cherry and secured with a cocktail stick.


The Maple Whisky Sour


  • 2 cups bourbon whisky (a smoky, peaty variety is best)
  • 100 ml fresh lemon juice
  • 100 ml maple syrup
  • 4 thin orange slices
  • 4 Maraschino cherries

To serve:

Combine bourbon, lemon juice, and maple syrup in a cocktail shaker.

Fill shaker with ice, put the lid on and shake vigorously until outside of shaker is very cold.

Strain mixture through a cocktail strainer, distributing evenly among 4 tumblers filled with ice.

Garnish with an orange slice twisted around a cherry and secured with a cocktail stick.