How to taste scotch

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  1. Buy a good glass. The tulip glass is the preferred style because it focuses the aromas and splashes the spirit onto the tongue in a wide fashion. Some whisky drinkers prefer tumblers or snifters.
  2. Pour yourself a dram. Depending on your experience and how much you want to drink, this amount can be anywhere from half an ounce to two ounces.
  3. Tilt and turn the glass. Let the whisky coat the glass so that it can evaporate easily. Observe the consistency as it sticks to the sides of your glass.
  4. Nose the whisky. Place your nose a few inches away from the glass. What do you smell? Now get a little closer. How is that? Now get as close as you can without letting the alcohol burn interfere. What other aromas are there?
  5. (optional) Add water: as much as half-and-half or as little as a few drops. Adding water depends on the strength and style of the whisky and the taster's preference. Regular bottles contain 40% to 46% alcohol by volume (ABV) while "Cask strength" whiskies are stronger and require more water. Avoid tap water, because the chlorine will interfere with the taste. It is a good idea to add water slowly and watch as it "marries" with the whisky.
  6. Gently agitate the whisky in the glass and nose it again. Change the angle and distance of the glass to pick up all of the subtle aromas. Continue this for a few minutes while the water marries with the whisky and releases additional aromas you may not have noticed at first. If you have added water, have patience. It takes a good amount of time before the whisky and water are completely married.
  7. Take a sip. Take just enough to coat your mouth and begin to slowly swirl it around your tongue. Feel the consistency of the whisky. Some feel thicker, oilier, or grittier than others. This is referred to as the "mouthfeel." Try and coat your tongue so that the whisky touches all of your taste buds.
  8. Taste the whisky. Try to hold the whisky in your mouth as long as it takes to notice all of the different flavors.
  9. Swallow but try not to open your mouth or close your throat. Let in a tiny amount of air through your mouth and breathe through your nose slowly as the fumes rise up into your sinuses. You may notice different flavors. This is called the "finish." Once the flavors subside, breathe normally.
  10. Repeat steps 7 through 10 until all of the whisky is gone. Notice how the flavors and aromas change throughout your session.

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