How to Drink Whiskey: Whiskey Tasting 101

“Whiskey, like a beautiful woman demands appreciation.
You gaze first, and then it’s time to drink.”

Whiskey tasting is a simple art to learn. If you don’t enjoy the taste of whiskey, you’ll be amazed how a few fundamentals will change your mind.

To become wiser whiskey drinkers and tasters, Tom and I turned to the expertise of Glenn Duncan in Kansas City. Glenn is the facilitator of the Northland Whiskey Critics and our brother-in-law. Each month Glenn pours, tastes, and critiques whiskey from across the continent alongside his club members. He was the perfect expert to turn to dial up our appreciation of whiskey and its heritage.

Glenn has a 250 bottle collection of whiskeys from Bardstown, Kentucky to Japan. Here’s what we learned about smelling, tasting, pouring, and enjoying whiskey.

Now that you watched Part 1, you know to (1) taste your whiskey straight up (2) drink it from a snifter or Glencairin nosing glass (3) open up the whiskey with a drop of distilled water to smell and taste more notes and (4) when you’re ready to pour yourself a glass to enjoy in full, use colassal ice cubes.

Glenn also taught us to observe the viscosity (thickness) of the whiskey you’re sampling. When you smell the whiskey, smell with both your nose and mouth. Doing so will increase the enjoyment.

What do you smell smoke, iodine, marzipan? The aromas are as endless as the types of tastes you’ll pull from a fine whiskey.

In part two of our whiskey course,  we tasted (1) Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye (2) Early Times Bottled-in-Bond and (3) Heaven Hill Bottled-in-Bond whiskey.

whiskey tasting
During our whiskey tasting, we sampled Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye vs. Early Times Bottled-in-Bond and vs. Heaven Hill Bottled-in-Bond whiskey.


I enjoyed whiskeys #1 and #3. I didn’t enjoy Early Times as much, but I did ask Glenn to include an affordable option, which is what Early Times is. Glenn says it makes a good table whiskey just as Maker’s Mark or Knob Creek do.

For me, I’d buy a bottle of Crown Royal (usually $40) for $25 at a wholesale club rather than buying a Early Time Whiskey for $20. It was too light and sterile (no smoke) for my taste in whiskey.

If you want to increase your appreciation for good-tasting whiskey, read up. Glenn recommends reading Jim Murray’s Whiskey Bible, which you can snag for less than $20.

I left with a new go-to drink for fall and winter. Jameson and ginger ale (poured 50/50) over a large sphere of ice. It went down easy and will replace gin and tonics effective immediately.

What’s your favorite whiskey?

Brenda Geiger
Follow me