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Pour a small quantity into a suitable glass and notice its colour: does it remind you of dark maple syrup, honey, tea?


Tilt the glass and turn it in a circle, then observe the drops that stick to the walls. How quickly do they move? More viscous tears are indicative of a more intensely-flavored, heavier whisky, sometimes referred to as "oily".


With spirits, there are two schools of thought regarding swirling the glass. The first dictates that the glass should be kept as still as possible in order to avoid releasing the powerful alcohol aroma, which would burn the nose and mask all but the peatiest of aromas.


The second school of thought is to swirl the glass gently – much like you would swirl a glass of wine – and blow gently into the glass. The aim of this is to release the alcohol aromas, and then clear them from the glass with a stream of air, leaving behind the other aromas.


Resist the temptation to put your nose too far down the glass: you will very quickly numb your sense of smell. Instead, go no further than the rim of the glass – your upper lip may touch the rim. It is also worth smelling the glass at different distances.


Take a small sip onto the tip of your tongue, and allow it to travel slowly to the back of the mouth. Breathe through your nose and use your tongue to very gently agitate the whisky. Hold the whisky in your mouth for as long as there is flavor, then swallow. Note how the flavor changes in your mouth as you hold it, if at all, and do not forget to observe the aftertaste.


It is not advisable to "slurp" whisky as one might with wine, as the higher alcohol content may cause a burning sensation in the throat and numb the tongue.