What the bartender says



Get ready to take your whisky know-how and enjoyment to new levels as we cover different ways of serving whisky, the various styles to consider and their characteristics, and which glassware to use to help you get the most out of your whisky enjoyment.

Styles, serving, and function-specific glassware

When it comes to beverage variety, there's not much whisky can't do. This heralded dark spirit can be enjoyed neat, with water or ice, or in a range of cocktails. Not only that, whisky comes in all sorts of styles and can be enjoyed from numerous glasses - each of which best suits a particular serving style.


Ways to serve your whisky


Sometimes, whisky is best enjoyed in its most simple form. This serving style is typically best for whiskies with complex aromas and flavors for you to examine and appreciate. When enjoying a quality whisky served neat, take a moment to inhale its scent, allowing your senses to observe its characteristics in detail before mindfully sipping and savoring the taste.

Ways to serve your whisky

With water or ice

Serving your whisky with a splash of water or with some ice can alter your drink in a few ways:

  • Adding water reduces the intensity of whisky by diluting the alcohol while still allowing you to enjoy its aromas. Water can also release and develop aroma compounds in the whisky, helping its qualities to evolve.
  • Chilling your whisky by serving it over ice blunts its harshness, making it easier to sip for some. Doing this can also dull some of its flavor and aromas, but its refreshing effect on your whisky makes it ideal for some.
  • Ice also melts in your whisky over time, gradually diluting it and changing your experience of the whisky as you sip.

Ways to serve your whisky

In a cocktail

Whisky is used in some of the world's best-loved classic cocktails, including the old fashioned, Manhattan, whiskey sour, and more. Classic whisky cocktails became popular in the early to mid-20th century before taking a backseat in the mid-to-late-20th century as tiki cocktails and disco drinks took center stage. However, from the 1990s onward, classic cocktails came back in a big way, which was good news for all of the famous whisky-based classics, which have remained popular to this day.

What the bartender says

Types of whisky to choose from

Due to its global popularity, there are quite a few types of whisky that you may consider trying. Each style has its own qualities and can be enjoyed differently. Choosing which is best for you is simply a matter of determining which style best suits your preferences and the drinking styles you lean toward. Here are some of the world's best-known whisky styles for you to consider.


Scotch whisky

Scotch is perhaps the world's best-known whisky style. Produced across various regions of Scotland, scotch whisky comes in many forms, including single-malt, blended, and single-grain.

Scotch whisky is typically smooth and rich, with some common tasting notes, including vanilla, malt, wood, peat, and honey. However, characteristics vary considerably between regions and distilleries, so it'll take plenty of testing to get a true impression of scotch's broad spectrum of qualities.

How scotch is enjoyed depends a lot on the type of scotch. Single-malt scotch whisky is usually sipped neat or with a splash of water, while blended or single-grain whiskies are often enjoyed neat, on the rocks, or in cocktails, making them good choices for people who like a little variety from their whisky.

Types of whisky to choose from

Bourbon whiskey

Bourbon prevails as the most popular style in the United States, first emerging in Kentucky in the 19th century and being named after the French Bourbon dynasty. 

Bourbon's use of at least 51% corn in the mash bill gives it a smooth and slightly sweet flavor profile, while barrel aging imparts flavors such as caramel, toffee, and vanilla into many bourbons. Some other notes bourbon can exhibit include smoke, apple, and spices like pepper or cinnamon—although spice notes are more commonly associated with another American whiskey that we'll discuss later.

When it comes to ways of drinking it, bourbon is famously versatile. It is commonly enjoyed neat, with ice, or in cocktails. Bourbon whiskey is often used as the base spirit for several classic cocktails, such as the old fashioned or the whiskey sour. So, if drinks like those are to your liking, then bourbon might be your ideal whiskey.


Japanese whisky

Japanese whisky follows a very similar production process to scotch, which is unsurprising when you learn that the founding Fathers of Japanese whisky were inspired by a visit to Scotland in the early 1900s. Japanese whisky is more simply a copycat, though - in recent years, a growing number of Japanese whiskies have been met with critical acclaim, with numerous bottles winning global awards. 

Due to its similar distillation process to scotch, Japanese whisky tends to be drier and smokier than the likes of American bourbon whiskey and often displays fruity aromas. The double distillation (or more) process for Japanese whisky also gives it a silky-smooth mouthfeel with a velvety and soft texture on the palate. Like scotch, however, Japanese whisky can vary considerably between distilleries, ranging from pale straw gold to rich amber in color and from light and delicate to rich and caramelized in flavor.

Due to their parallels with scotch, it is no surprise that Japanese whisky can be excellent when enjoyed neatly or with some water. That said, the most common way of enjoying Japanese whisky is with soda water from a highball glass. Highball drinks have long been popular in Japan due to the hot, humid weather it experiences during summer, and adding soda to whisky makes for a more refreshing experience, so it's no wonder this has become such a popular form of Japanese whisky enjoyment!

Types of whisky to choose from

Rye whiskey

Rye whiskey is made in much the same way as bourbon but with rye as its primary grain instead of corn. Rye whiskey was actually the first style to emerge in the US, becoming prominent in northeastern US states in the late 18th and 19th centuries before declining in popularity during the 1900s. Don't confuse rye whiskey with Canadian rye whisky, though; any whisky produced in Canada can be given the latter label, including those not made with rye.

Due to being made with at least 51% rye in the mashing bill, rye whiskey typically exhibits a distinct spicy flavor profile. Spices often identified in rye whiskies include black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, and other baking spices, giving the whiskey style a bold and assertive character.

Many popular whiskey cocktails that may today be associated with bourbon can be made with rye instead, which is helpful to know if you prefer cocktails with a slightly spicier profile. In fact, many popular whiskey cocktails, such as the old fashioned and the Manhatten, were initially made with rye whiskey, with bourbon only becoming more commonly used when it began to overtake rye whiskey in popularity.


Irish whiskey

Irish whiskey is the oldest whiskey style on this list, with the first recorded reference coming in 1405. This whisky style declined significantly in popularity in the 1900s as other styles overtook it in popularity, but has enjoyed a renaissance in recent years.

Irish whiskey is associated with light and fruity flavor profiles, while its requirement of being barrel-aged for at least three years imparts into it the classic oaky, caramel qualities generally associated with whiskey. It is traditionally enjoyed neat, with ice, or with a splash of water, but it can also be mixed with coffee or ginger beer to make an Irish coffee or a whiskey ginger.

Different RIEDEL Glasses

Choosing the right glass

The glass you should use for your whisky depends on how you serve it, which is why so many whisky glasses look so different. Fortunately, choosing the best glass for your whisky indulgence can be pretty straightforward once you know why each glass is designed the way it is.