The three main grading components of whiskey are appearance, aroma, and taste.
Appearance considers simply how the whiskey looks in the glass when held up to light. As long as the color is smooth, and even throughout, a darker or lighter color does not indicate whether the whiskey is good or poor.
Aroma is judged by wafting the whiskey under the nose and gently swirling the glass from side to side. After wafting the whiskey for a few moments, a drop or two of water is placed in the glass and swirled with the whiskey, allowing the flavors to open up. The aroma is then considered once more. A good aroma indicates how the whiskey will taste. A strong and pleasant aroma which gives way to an inferior taste is disappointing whereas a weak aroma with a good taste does not adequately signal the whiskey’s strength.
Taste is judged by moving the whiskey around the mouth, allowing the roof of the mouth and tongue to be covered. We also note the finish and prickliness of the whiskey when tasting.
After considering the color, aroma, and taste of the whiskey, it is assessed on a scale from one to ten. Each level is represented by a level of Dante’s Paradiso. All levels of Paradiso are used, and we try to keep an average score of five.