3 New Ways To Smell Booze

Iain McCallum demonstrates the “Live Long and Prosper” technique

Apparently, there’s more of an art to sniffing hooch than I’d realized.

It’s no longer enough to bring a glass to your nose and simply inhale. Depending on who you ask and what’s in your cup, you may be advised to swirl first; stick your nose in the glass altogether or just wave it gently below; inhale with mouth slightly open or closed — all in the name of maximizing aroma.

My take:  whatever works best for you is the right way.

That said, at a recent Scotch-tasting event, Iain McCallum, Master of Malts for Morrison Bowmore Distillers, demonstrated three ways to coax extra fragrance out of the glass. Although I’m tempted to scoff, I see the wisdom of having alternate ways to nose spirits, especially when dealing with cask-strength whiskey.  The point is to avoid inhaling a snootful of alcohol.

At least one of these worked for me; some were just amusing to watch. Try these techniques for yourself and let me know what works best for you.

 1. The Live Long and Prosper. I call it that because the first step is to make a Spock-like “V” sign with the third and fourth fingers of your hand.  Palm up, place the stem of a wineglass in the crook of the “V” and cup the bowl in your palm to warm the liquid inside. Put your other hand on top of the glass, trapping the aroma inside.

Swirl the glass, and bring it to your nose. Slide the top hand away, and quickly smell.

2. The Milkshake. Assume the Live Long and Prosper pose.  Instead of the circular swirl, this time shake the glass up and down, violently enough that the spirit splashes up on to your palm (but not violently enough to catapult the glass across the room, please).

Put the glass down, and rub palms together. The alcohol should evaporate; cup hands together and smell the fragrance left on your palms.

3. The Basset Hound. Bring the glass to your nose. Sniff it three times, quickly, and then stop. Repeat this (sniff three times, stop). Repeat it a third time. By the third sniff-a-thon, your nose should be acclimated to the alcohol, and you should smell only the fragrance of the spirit.

I found this last technique surprisingly effective. When I tried it with a tableful of people doing the same thing, I also found it remarkably hilarious.

Do you have a special technique for smelling spirits? Or seen one that’s just kind of nutty? Post it below – I can’t wait to hear about it (and what you think of the ones above).

4 thoughts on “3 New Ways To Smell Booze

  1. After swirling, try sniffing at the lower edge of the glass, then the top. (Don’t be shy about sticking your nose all the way in). Go back and forth a few times. This is a technique I’ve used with wine for years. It’s surprising how different the aroma can be from the same glass.

  2. Fascinating. I have to try that. Come to think of it, I’ve also seen some bizarre scent techniques employed with bitters, too: smell it from the crook of your fist; from the cupped palm; from palms rubbed together vs. waved in the air vs. clapped together….the olfactory sense is a curious thing!

  3. I have some aged whisky aged and then bottled in a perfume bottle by a french artist. I spray it on when I want to smell like wood and vanilla and lick my own wrist on the subway.

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