Happy World Whisky Day! Celebrated annually on every third Saturday in May, this is simply a day to celebrate the glorious spirit.

Founded in 2012 by whisky writer and consultant Blair Bowman, his note on the official website (www.worldwhiskyday.com) says that all you need to celebrate World Whisky Day is a bottle of whisky (any whisky, be it Scotch, bourbon, Japanese, or others) to share with your friends.

Since you’ll probably be drinking some whisky today, chances are, you might even want to talk about it a little. So, if you are, you might want to learn some commonly used terms in whisky circles.

However, the way you use some of these terms can immediately give away whether you are a beginner or a seasoned whisky drinker.

Here, we’ve compiled a handy guide on six terms commonly used when describing whisky, just so you can sound like you know what you’re talking about.

Keep in mind though, that even though this is the way I tend to use these terms, there really is no right or wrong way to talk about or drink whisky (as long as it’s responsibly, of course).

So let us now raise our glasses, and toast to the great spirit that is whisky!

world whisky day

Yup, that’s pretty much how you nose a whisky. The Star/Chan Tak Kong

Nose

Definition: 1) To scent; detect by or as if by smell; 2) the part of the face you use to smell stuff.

Don’t say: I took a big sniff and all the alcohol went up my nose. (When you nose a whisky, you’re supposed to slowly, gently sniff at it to identify the different scents, both distinct and subtle).

Do say: Slightly smokey on the nose, there is also the distinct aroma of pears, and subtle hints of apples, figs, and dark fruits.

Huh?: Sniffing that 68% ABV cask strength whisky nearly melted my nose.

Palate

Definition: 1) The roof of the mouth; 2) the sense of taste

Don’t say: The whisky was a great palate of flavours. (There’s a difference between the words palate, which means the sense of taste, and palette, which is that thin board on which an artist lays and mixes colours).

Do say: On the palate, I detect some fruity notes like green papaya, a vibrant grassy note, and some complex dark fruit flavours.

Huh?: I’d like to order a palate of this whisky (that’s PALLET, silly).

Mouthfeel

Definition: 1) The sensation created by food or drink in the mouth.

Don’t say: This whisky’s mouthfeel is sweet. (Mouthfeel in whisky tastings usually refers to how the whisky feels in your mouth, the texture and the viscosity rather than the taste of it).

Do say: This whisky has a nice creamy, slightly oily mouthfeel, one that coats your palate wonderfully.

Huh?: I couldn’t mouthfeel after that last 68% ABV cask strength whisky.

world whisky day

No, this is not Valentine’s Day. You don’t need to buy flowers for your whisky on World Whisky Day. Photo: The Star/Chan Tak Kong

Finish

Definition: 1) To come to an end; 2) the lingering flavour on the palate after the liquid has been swallowed.

Don’t say: I’ve finished my whisky. (Yes, we know you’ve finished it, but what do you taste in your mouth now that the whisky itself isn’t there anymore?)

Do say: The smoky, fruity notes of the whisky linger on in a satisfying long finish.

Huh?: That 68% ABV cask strength whisky really finished off my taste buds.

Vibrant

Definition: 1) Pulsating with life, vigour, or activity; a vibrant personality; 2) readily set in vibration; 3) bright

Don’t say: The whisky tastes so vibrant. (Yes, it’s vibrant, but in what way?)

Do say: The whisky has a vibrant tinge of citrus fruit notes.

Huh?: This whisky is so vibrant I had to stop my mouth from vibrating with excitement.

Smooth

Definition: 1) Not sharp or harsh; 2) having a continuous even surface; 3) A hit song by Santana.

Don’t say: This whisky tastes very smooth (Smooth isn’t a flavour. Maybe you mean that it’s not harsh, sharp, and does not burn your throat?)

Do say: Preferably never, because smooth really doesn’t say much about the whisky other than it goes down easily.

Huh?: Just like the ocean under the moon, it’s the same as the emotion that I get from you. This whisky has got the kind of flavour that can be so smooth. Give me some tart, make it peaty, or else forget about it.

world whisky day

Get a dram (or three) and let us toast to World Whisky Day. Photo: The Star/Art Chen

Complex

Definition: 1) Not easy to understand or explain, not simple; 2) Having parts that go together in complicated ways; 3) A building or group of buildings housing related units.

Don’t say: The whisky is very complex. (Sure, it’s hard to explain all those complicated flavours, but just saying it’s “complex” doesn’t say much, does it?)

Do say: The whisky has a complex range of flavours, going from juicy pears to smoky mangoes, and even hints of the bubblegum I used to chew when I was seven years old.

Huh?: That whisky made me want to throw it out the window of my apartment complex.


Michael Cheang now wants a dram of 68% ABV whisky. Drop him a note at the Tipsy-Turvy Facebook page (fb.com/mytipsyturvy) or follow him on Instagram (@mytipsyturvy).