Tasting any type of spirit is a personal experience and there are really no right or wrong answers when it comes to what aromas and flavors you're able to identify in the process. It does however help to know the basic steps of tasting so you're able to enjoy the experience and discover your preferences.
Step 1: The Color
Pour about an ounce of whiskey into a clear glass, preferably one with a narrow mouth and wide bottom. Assess the color. The darker the color, the longer the whisky has been aged.
Step 2: The Aromas
Aroma is a crucial part of the tasting experience as some of the flavors in whisky are volatile. Hold the glass in both hands to warm the whisky just a little.
Place the mouth of the glass an inch away from your nose and sniff the aromas. The first sniff might be primarily alcohol, but repeat the process a few times. Each sniff should reveal a little more of the whisky's true aromas.
Try to identify the fruity notes and do your best to describe them, then move the glass closer to your nose. You should start to pick up additional aromas – spice, smoke, oak, etc.
Step 3: The Body
Before you actually taste the whisky, add a little bit of room temperature filtered or bottled water. This will release more of the whisky flavors and dilute the strong spirit, allowing you to appreciate the complex flavors and lessen the alcohol burn.
Take a small sip of the whisky and note the body of the flavor. Would you describe it as light, heavy, rich, sharp?
Step 4: The Flavors
The next step is to really taste the whisky. Make note of where it hits your tongue. The tip of your tongue will detect sweetness; the back, bitterness; the top, saltiness and the sides, acidity. With each subsequent sip the complexity of flavors should become more apparent. Do you detect fruit, butterscotch, vanilla, smoke, spice?
Step 5: The Finish
The last step is to note the finish. Is it dry, lingering, sharp, sweet, spicy?
Once you've completed all the tasting steps, make some notes, try a different brand and compare.