Depending on your level of experience, drinking scotch amongst seasoned scotch drinkers can be an educational delight or an utter nightmare. As the whisky nerds trade in terms so complex they might as well be Scottish Gaelic (and sometimes actually are), you might be afraid to even raise the glass to your lips for fear of committing a faux pas—as well you should be. Because there is a right way to taste Scotch whisky, and lucky for you, it’s easy to learn.
It’s particularly easy when you have an expert teacher like Tommy Tardie of the award-winning Flatiron Room (which boasts 1200 whiskies, including 700 single malts). He runs classes in his Whiskey School that range from 101 basics to PhD-level expertise. We sat down with him in the tasting room at his newly opened Fine & Rare bar in New York for a step-by-step guide on how to taste scotch the right way. Here’s how to master sipping the infamous Scottish spirit.