Ultimate Gentleman’s Guide to Drinking Whiskey Etiquette

If you're a first-timer to the wonderful world of Whiskey or a seasoned veteran who knows his way around a bottle, whiskey etiquette is a useful skill every gentleman should seek to gain.

How to Select Your Whiskey

  • Irish whiskey-produced in Ireland. Popular brands include Jameson, Bushmills, and Tullamore D.E.W.
  • Scotch whisky-made in Scotland. Tends to have distinct smoky and earthy flavors. Varieties include single malt and blends. Popular brands include Johnnie Walker, Chivas Regal, The Macallan, and Glen Scotia.
  • American Whiskey- Include Bourbon, Tennessee whiskey, and rye whiskey.
  • Canadian whisky-Typically blends and tend to be light-bodied and fruitier. Popular brands include Crown Royal and Canadian Club.
  • Other regions- Whiskeys from other countries like South Africa, England, New Zealand, and Japan are on the rise in popularity. However, many of these have no set regulations to determine how the Whiskey should be produced.

In this broad market, you are bound to find a brand or style that you prefer. Our recommendation is for you to choose a type and try a few different brands under that style.

You'll also find alcohol content on whiskey labels. It may either be labeled directly as a percentage or as a "proof." To determine the percentage from a proof, divide the number in half. So an 80-proof whiskey is 40% alcohol by volume.

Choosing the Right Glass

While it is okay to drink Whiskey in whatever is available at the time, may it be a plastic cup or mug, if possible, always serve Whiskey in a glass. This is because other materials can taint the flavor. Plus, drinking whiskey from a glass honestly looks much better. There is a wide variety of whiskey glasses you can choose from.

  • The whisky tumbler/ rocks glass/old-fashioned glass/lowball) -It's the most common. It has straight, thick walls and a heavy base that prevents it from breaking easily.
  • The tulip-shaped glass/copita-style glass/ dock glass-Loved by master distillers, blenders, and true whisky connoisseurs worldwide. It has a long stem that prevents the drinker's hand from coming too close to the nose, while its bowl shape concentrates aromas through the slightly narrowed rim.
  • The snifter/ the brandy bowl/cognac glass - This one oozes class – think Whiskey and cigars after dinner. Commonly used for brandy, it's now popular among whiskey drinkers.
  • The Glencairn-Similar to the tulip-shaped glass but is thicker and has a short solid base. It's the perfect glass for learning how to swirl Whisky—a practice commonly used to open up Whisky's aromas for full appreciation.
types of whiskey glasses

How to Drink Whiskey Straight or Neat

To really get the flavors of the Whiskey, you need to add a dash of water. But before that, take a moment to inhale the flavors. This is because while your palate can only identify four flavors sweet, bitter, sour, and savory, your nose can identify hundreds of different flavors.

Bring the glass to about chin level and wave it from side to side as you inhale lightly through your nose and slightly through your mouth. You may notice a little burning sensation and, if so, lower the glass it slightly.

Once your nose has detected a couple of flavors, go ahead and add a splash of water. How much water to add? That's totally on you, but a good recommendation is usually two parts whiskey one part water.

Take a few seconds to nose the Whiskey again then take a sip.

This allows your taste buds to adjust to the strong aroma and flavors of your Whiskey, making it an even more enjoyable experience.

If you are a beginner, you probably won't tell too much of a difference in actual flavor at first. But over time, your taste buds will mature, and you'll be able to distinguish different flavors and different styles of Whiskey.

Should You Get Whiskey On the Rocks?

Ordering a whiskey "on the rocks" may sound cool, but it may not necessarily be what you want. This is because ice actually numbs your palate and dulls the flavors. But if you want ice in your Whiskey, you're best off going with a large ice cube (1.5 to 2 inch) or ice ball.

Small cubes or chunks of ice will melt faster than larger pieces, diluting your Whiskey more quickly. If you want the chilling effect without the dilution, you might consider adding chilled whiskey stones.

How to Avoid Offending a Host or Connoisseur Offering you Whiskey in a Social or Business Setting:

  • Never spit or sputter- Fine Whiskey is expensive, and no one is going to enjoy watching you spit your 50-year-old cask whiskey back into a glass.
  • Try not to make faces- Whiskey can have a strong flavor for beginners but try and keep your composure.
  • Keep your negative comments to yourself-It's okay, to be honest, and say the Whiskey is "challenging." But don't go about calling it "gross" or anything offensive that might belittle the generosity of your host.
  • Sip the whiskey- A lot of premium whiskey will burn your plate if you try to take shots. Sip the Whiskey slowly and enjoy the different flavor notes.

Final thoughts

Now that you've got the low-down on everything whiskey, you'll be able to impress all of your friends or work colleagues the next time you go out.


  • Clare Martin

    I found your tip to be quite helpful when you told us to add a dash of water to our whiskey and inhale it first if we want to get the flavor properly since our noses can identify hundreds of different flavors that aren’t just sweet, bitter, sour, and savory. My friends are visiting my new apartment next weekend, so I wanted to buy a Rye Whiskey bottle to drink during dinner. I’ll keep this in mind while I loom for where I can buy a good bottle of whiskey in my hometown soon. https://millstoneusa.com/

  • Eve Mitchell

    It’s good to know that a large ice cube is ideal for drinking whiskey. I’m hoping to get a bottle of whiskey for my husband’s birthday party this week. He loves whiskey, so I think this would be the perfect gift for him. https://drinkfrisky.com/

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