Scotch whisky flavour wheel
The idea of a Scotch whisky flavour wheel came about to help with the (admittedly difficult) process of separating the different aromas found in whisky. In the late 1970s, the Scotch Whisky Research Institute (SWRI) developed the first Scotch Whisky Flavour Wheel, which has since become the industry standard for sensory evaluation of Scotch whisky.
Flavour wheels are an extremely accessible tool for use by the industry and enthusiasts alike, essentially providing a common language for describing the aromas of various compounds that arise during the whisky-making process. A consistent framework can offer the chance to create formalised tasting notes that everyone can relate to and understand.
Not everybody needs a wheel as complex the SWRI one, so we have created our own Scotch whisky flavour wheel to get you started with the idea.
How to use a flavour wheel
The central wheel. Here, you’ll find the broadest aroma categories e.g floral, green grassy, cereal, peaty... these major categories allow you to ask questions about the aromas you are experiencing. It is essentially an aide to help you interrogate your own sense of smell.
The outer circle (or circles), offers a greater level of detail stemming from the core aromas. Peaty, for instance, can be further broken down to burnt, smoky or medicinal at this stage. These sub-categories help to further concentrate your mind and open up the potential for further conversation and discussion.
The layers of a flavour wheel – whether used from the outside going in or the inside going out – can give you an idea of the manufacturing processes involved and generally offer a good starting point for further discussion as you open up the possibilities within different flavour categories.
Watch the video with one of our whisky lecturers, Dr Gordon Steele:
It is easy to become overwhelmed when trying to appreciate all the various aromas. Our Scotch whisky tasting toolkit offers several tasting guides to simplify this process, encouraging you to build your own portfolio of whisky tasting notes with confidence.