It’s been said that real men drink whiskey – but to the uninitiated the wide variety of choices can be somewhat intimidating.

With so many brands and varieties on the market, not to mention strong opinions regarding the best way to enjoy a quality Whiskey, its best to approach this subject matter with a solid guide in your hip pocket. And this is where we come in.

We’ll tell you how with this brief introduction.

The Scots have been malting, mashing and fermenting Whiskey for hundreds of years, with records suggesting that distillation of the drink has its roots in the 15th century. Since then the national drink has evolved dramatically, offering up a staggeringly wide variety of world-famous tastes, all of which differ depending on the grain, blend, cask or region of origin.

Personally, I’ve been drinking Scottish Whiskey for around five years and when I started reading and researching a potential tipple it was admittedly a little overwhelming and intimidating. You’ll come across a lot of pretense and possible snobbery about how things should be done “right”, but it’s really best to ignore this when you’re getting started and just discover what you prefer.

Enjoying good Scotch whiskey is a journey — one towards an appreciation for what your palate enjoys.

At first you will probably be taken aback by the apparent harshness and potency of your chosen drink but don’t worry, you’ll get used to the so-called ‘burn’. Over time you’ll slowly begin to gain an appreciation for good Scotch, developing a taste for a favourite, be that a mild single malt, a smooth blended whiskey, or one of the stronger Island variants.

Experience suggests that its best to start with a Whiskey that’s both mild and smooth. So, here’s what I’d recommend for your first taste test:

Smell It

Before you take your first taste of Scotch Whiskey you’ll want to pour some into a glass, and give it a good sniff. This initial whiff will prepare your taste buds for what’s about to come. Think of taking in the aroma as a preview.

Ice It

Many whiskey enthusiasts may disagree, but adding a little ice or water to your first glass of Scotch will, without doubt, help ease you into familiarizing yourself with the strong taste. Say, for example, you typically drink 5% beer — you’re really going to notice jumping to a 40-or-higher percentage whiskey.

It’s important to mention that you don’t need much ice here, as too much will water the drink down. But whilst you’re still new to Scotch, having your drink ‘softened’ is no bad thing. As you get used to the taste, you can remove ice as you see fit. Until you’re ready for no ice, and to experience the intense flavor of the drink as it was intended, you may want to drop in an ice cube of two. We won’t tell anyone. We promise.

Sip It

Just a drop will do. Whiskey is by no means a drink you can gulp down to quench your thirst. Just take a small sip and swirl it around your mouth before swallowing. Leaving it in your mouth for a second or two allows you time to pick up on all the flavors. Outside of the burning sensation, which you’ll inevitably be trying to hide behind your manly demeanor at this point, you should notice a few hints of flavor.

Enjoy It

This is the most important point of the whole process. By now, you should have poured your first drink.  It’s time to sit back and relax. Take a moment. Take a sip. Enjoy the Whiskey.  Your Whiskey journey is just beginning.

Get Started With These

With those tips in mind, we suggest you get started with one of the bottles below. You can’t go wrong with some of the following:

  • The Balvenie Doublewood 12 Year
  • The Glenlivet 12 Year
  • Glenfiddich 12 Year Old Malt
  • Auchentoshan 12 Year Old

Photo Credit: Danny Nicholson via Compfight (cc)