Rob Dietrich

First off, drinking whiskey like a pro requires several skill sets—all easily learned—and the ability to have an open mind to learn new skills about something you may have already been doing for many years: drinking your favorite whiskey.

Here are 3 ‘Drinking Rules of Engagement’ to help you understand how to nose, taste, and trust your palate when drinking whiskey in a few short steps.


If you are nosing a great whiskey, you are already making great decisions, which will take you straight to your happy place.

  • Step 1: To begin, keep your lips slightly parted and inhale through your mouth and nose simultaneously; this helps keep that flare of heat from hitting your nostrils like a blast of hot desert wind.
  • Step 2: Slowly draw in nice, even breaths and allow yourself to delve into the nuances of the aroma fully. Does it smell like vanilla? Caramel? Grandma’s kitchen? Your buddy’s garage?
  • Step 3: Attempt to identify exactly what you are smelling and jot down a few descriptions to help you discern each note.

Just know that what you are smelling is always the right answer. It’s your palate; what you smell is what you smell. Trust that.


This isn’t Cabo. We’re not here to shoot the whiskey; that is reserved for that unpalatable cheap stuff that tastes like boot camp floor polish. Rule #2 is in place to help you discern your palate and, over time, refine it with practice.

  • First, sip the whiskey and roll it over the sides of your mouth and the back of your tongue. The first sip will allow your mouth to acclimate to the warmth of the whiskey.
  • On the second sip, repeat the maneuvers of the first sip, but this time add a slight chewing motion and let the whiskey roll over your tongue. You can pick up on many more nuances of the whiskey on this second sip. What do you taste? Butterscotch? Cinnamon? Black cherries? Walnuts? Fresh-cut hay?

Again, this is your palate and yours alone. Trust your palate, identify likes and dislikes about the whiskey, and move beyond to challenge yourself in identifying each note in the whiskey’s flavor profile. Write down descriptions as best you can and concentrate on what you can identify, not what you can’t. There are no wrong answers; you will get better at finding those more elusive identifiers over time.


Although Oscar Wilde famously said, “Everything in moderation, including moderation,” it is always wise to regulate how much whiskey you attempt to throw down. I encourage you to take the time to truly engage and enjoy that whiskey you have spent your hard-earned dollars on.

As a final step to properly tasting your whiskey, add a small dash of water (filtered if you have it) to allow the whiskey to open up and release the delicate nuances of the flavor profile. You will be amazed at how just the smallest amount of water dissipates that heat and allows the whiskey to bloom.

Nice work! You have just graduated from Drinking Like a Pro boot camp and are now on your way to learning even more about your palate than you ever knew possible. BLACKENED American Whiskey

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