Fred Noe, descendant of the "Jim Beam" family, once said in an interview about whisk(e)y: "You can drink it any damn way you want. Neat, with a little water, on the rocks, out of the bottle for all I care!" Good Fred was also a little amused that the Scots in particular make too many rules about how whisky should best be drunk and enjoyed. Now indeed, anyone who purchases a bottle for sale can decide what to do with it and how to drink it. But I can give some small, purely personal tips:
1.) The whisky should rather be tasted at room temperature, say around 18 degrees, a few degrees more or less are not too bad in my opinion.
2.) Refrain from using glasses that are too large or thick, such as tumblers or large-volume "cognac swivels". Simple and rather thin "nosing glasses" in the shape of a tulip with or without a style are good to use. I personally like the "Glencairn Glass" without style and with a solid glass base. Others like more of the "sherry glass" variety. Also, the small white wine tasting glasses you may have brought back from your last winery visit are great for sniffing and drinking.
3.) Very helpful especially for enjoying cask strength whiskies is a small jug of water that is as neutral as possible. You can of course take Scottish spring water or Black Forrest, the still mineral water with the lowest table salt content in Germany, but of course also another still, low-salt water. In regions with soft, low-calcium tap water, the same is of course also fine. Also, a disposable pipette is helpful to avoid unintentionally watering down the whisky too much.
Now for tasting:
1.) Put a small amount (2 to 3cl) in the glass and wet as large an area of the inside of the glass as possible by swirling. Smell it carefully to intensively and try to find out in the first step if you like what you smell. In the next step you can describe why you like the whisky or not. In the third step you name the aromas you recognize. Each step is more fun if you share it with other tasters. Some mutual "preconditioning" is intentional and really not a bad thing, but rather helpful in decoding this mysterious drink.
2.) Now take a mini sip and keep it in your mouth as long as possible. Many connoisseurs find this easier if they keep the whisky more in the front of the mouth or tongue. As with smelling ("nosing"), try to explore what you like and don't like in the above three steps. Salivation will set in and dilute, perhaps even alter, the whisky. As you swallow, pay attention to what happens next, what flavor remains and for how long. Very exciting!
3.) Should you drink a whisky with a high alcohol content (say: over 46%) or even in cask strength (i.e. the whisky is taken out of the cask and bottled without dilution. The strength can then still be over 60% even after many years, but it can also be less than 50% depending on the evaporation during the maturation in the cask), so I would advise you to always taste the first small sip neat, no matter how strong you think the whisky is. The second "sip" you can not only reduce the strength of the whisky with a few drops of water, but also "break up" the whisky, because adding water releases flavours that were bound in the alcohol. It could also happen that this makes the whisky even stronger/alcoholic, although it is in fact diluted by the addition of water. Be that as it may: compare yourself and decide how you like the whisky better, because there is no rule of definition for that. You alone decide whether you add more water or enjoy the next glass completely without water, because it tastes best to you "neat" (i.e. undiluted). SLAINTE!
Text from: Frank Jerger