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The sense of smell plays a huge role in whisky tasing. Experts tell us that 80-90% of our ability to detect various flavors hinges on our ability to discern different aromas. In other words, our whisky tasting experience begins before the whisky even touches our lips.

Unfortunately, we do not all share the same sense of smell. But the good news is that we can cultivate our ability to detect even the most subtle aromas by practicing a few proven techniques. However, it’s necessary to understand that our ability to detect smell does not only depend on our olfactory system alone but also on our ability to associate a scent with a distinct memory, prior sensory experience, or unique image.

For instance, it might be that the smell of leather conjures up a vision of an old baseball mitt you had a kid. Or perhaps the smell of sawdust brings to mind your grandfather’s workshop. Memory associations heighten our awareness and sensitivity to certain aromas, making it more likely we will detect even in minimal concentrations in the future.

Fortunately, there are tools to help us sharpen our sense of smell and our ability to communicate the fragrances detected. A popular and handy tool is a nosing kit. A nosing kit consists of an assortment of vials, each containing samples of pure aroma compounds.

There are several kits commercially available. The advantage of buying a kit is that the aromas do not deteriorate over time if properly stored. Second, they are professionally produced and contain the “essence” of a fragrance associated explicitly with whisky.  But they are a little pricey and can be difficult for the average whisky enthusiast to afford.

However, this workshop offers an alternative approach and focuses on making a D-I-Y nosing kit. We’ll concentrate on twelve aromas that are characteristic of malt whiskies and bourbon.