A number of things, but one of the biggest is a knowledge of whiskey tasting etiquette. From how to serve whiskey to what sort of glassware you should use when enjoying a dram, there are plenty of unwritten rules that even the most seasoned imbibers will admit they didn't know at first.
Here's your crash course in everything you need to know about spirits tasting so you can join the ranks of connoisseurs worldwide…
Learn the Flavour Profiles
The best way to start learning about whiskey is by understanding its flavour profiles. These are generally described as sweet, smoky, spicy and fruity flavours – but these terms don't always translate well across different brands and styles.
A better understanding starts with knowing how each type hits your palate so that you can identify the subtle differences between similar-sounding varieties more accurately.
Sweet notes come from corn and wheat mash bill recipes being high in sugar content; this means that vanilla bean, caramel and molasses-like qualities are common points for sweetness in American whiskeys (bourbon), Irish whiskeys (single malt) and Canadian whiskies (rye).
Smoky notes on the other hand come from barrel ageing or peating processes which leave behind an earthy smoke flavour in Scotch whiskies (single malt).
Spicy flavours meanwhile tend to be found across all types thanks to their proximity with Caribbean rum production methods which include adding spices like cinnamon or clove into barrels during distillation processes.
Fruity notes on the other hand aren't as common – but they're usually associated with younger blends as it's easier for them to display fruitier traits before maturation has tamed their aromas over time.
When sampling whisky cocktails it's customary not only to sip your drink slowly but also swirl it around inside your mouth before letting it drip back down onto your tongue where its flavours will be absorbed more easily through membranes before finally entering your bloodstream via absorption through mucus membranes within taste buds located on various parts of our tongue surface areas.
There are three ways to enjoy whisky depending upon whether you want a quick shot or want something more memorable:
On Ice: This is probably the most popular method for enjoying mixed drinks containing whisky due solely because this allows bartenders and mixologists alike greater control over dilution ratios based on customer preferences – such as serving two fingers deep within any given cocktail vessel if served separately from other mixes without melting ice water diluting potency too much too quickly; served 'on rocks' instead if preferred; served neat if preferred; enjoyed 'up'; or enjoyed 'neat'.
Neat: This means pouring shots directly into glasses without any water added however this doesn't mean there isn't room for experimentation here now does it? Try drinking neat shots out of different types of glasses instead!
We recommend trying out Glencairn whisky glasses which were actually designed specifically by Raymond Davidson of the Glencairn Crystal Company for use with Scotch whiskies; brandy snifters which are typically used to serve Cognac or Armagnac (brandy) but will also work for Scotch whisky; and finally tumbler glasses preferably small in size – these won't break easily if dropped and can be stored easily in cabinets without taking up too much space.
All three types are tall with wide bases so that aromas can be detected easily when liquid rises up the side of a vessel; they're also all transparent so that colour can be seen clearly; they're all sturdy enough to handle being dropped without shattering if accidentally knocked over; they're easy to clean afterwards; and last but not least they feature a tapered shape which means aroma molecules will rise up easier through wider openings at the top of each glass rather than dissipating within wide base areas at the bottom.
Keep your tastings neat and tidy by using some kind of tasting glassware! For example, using traditional whiskey tulip glasses if you're serving your drinks on the rocks will leave your favourite spirits looking as good as they taste whereas sipping straight from a bottle or jar isn't only unsanitary but it's also very unprofessional when offering tastings at home or elsewhere! When tasting different varieties of whiskey side-by-side it's customary to start with the youngest age statement first (i. e. newest release) rather than the oldest because this allows you to see how new releases are evolving more clearly.
When serving whiskey it's customary not to add any water or ice to the spirit itself – instead you can use glasses designed for tastings, put ice directly into your cocktail mixes before adding shots of whisky, or serve drinks on the rocks.
When pouring drinks containing whiskey it's customary not only to do so carefully but also slowly – just fill up half way between the lip (rim) of your bottle or jar and the bottom edge before placing back down on its stand then allow time for aromas to settle again after releasing pressure from your container before filling up again until you've reached desired level in your serving vessel.