Nice posts. I have been collecting ways to taste from several sites and people in the business, I then added those to the method I already used and I have experimented with some things people here said, Lawrence and MrT, you had said these things before and I have tried them thoroughly. It works as a charm. This is how I do it for the moment:
Dont smoke for 30 minutes before the tasting. I could use some feedback on this one. I have tried this with a friend and we both find that cigarettes and especially cigars are a disaster for peat. It can even nullify the entire nose and taste of peat, replacing it with banana, wood and floral aromas.
First, nose a glass of water, thanks to Lawrence.
Pardon my language, but screw the color, it isnt gonna tell you anything in most cases except how caramelized it is.
Gently roll the glass to examine the body. This is usually confirmed in the mouthfeel. It can tell you the relative age and strength of the dram.
Then I nose the dram gently from a small distance paying attention to floral notes. Next is right above the glass slowly but more long then before and let the aroma's come. If they dont come naturally I usually look for floral notes first, then oak, then fruit. Then I swirl the glass and nose it again, depending on the strength of the nose, right above or inside the glass. Swirling will help release new aromas. Another trick is to move my nose above the glass from left to right and leaning your head towards a side, this is helpfull for detecting feints, but dont be suprised if the rest of the tasting party is giving you a weird look...
Also right before the first sip I repeat the nosing part but now warm the dram in my hands, this may take about a minute and the effect is especially pronounced with sherry matured malts.
Usually after these first nosing steps you get a good idea of how fruity, feinty, oaky and floral the dram is. But usually the nose changes alot with time in the glass and addition of water, so this process is repeated untill the dram is empty. After awhile in the glass and after sampling it there may arise new aroma's you didnt get before, cocoa is one of these, spices like ginger and cinnamon too. These seem to be more easy to detect when not specifically searching for them but suddenly are there when you put your nose a bit above the glass.
Next step is sampling. First I take a normal sip, not big, but not small either, a normal sip. Then I hold the whisky in the tongue and move it back and forwards. (I learnt this from Jim McEwan: if you do this for 5 seconds before swallowing, your tongue is able to detect temperature. After swallowing you will get a hot spot on your tongue, where this spot is located tells you the age! At the top of the tongue is young, say 10 to 14 years, gradually it moves towards the back of your tongue, 15 to 18 in the middle, and from then on in the back and in your throat. I have tried this with every malt I have at home and it works every single time!!) So after that I let the whisky fall from the sides of the tongue so every part of it was coated and gently swallow. Paying attention to the age detector and first impressions. Usually making notes of body, mouthfeel and sweetness here.And the first notes on the finish, length and primary taste in the aftertaste. With the second taste I add air in the mouth while the malt is on the tongue (thx mrT) This will usually though not always add more punch to the taste and complexity and it can make a relatively simple dram way more full flavored and complex, it also seems to bring out spicy flavors if they are there. This time paying attention to the different flavors and their balance with eachother. (What is most pronounced, undertone, accents, subtle hints etc.) And the same with the finish wich btw for me starts only after the top of the flavor. so always after swallowing, but never immediatly beginning when you have swallowed.
Then I add a few drops of water preferebly with a pippette, cover the glass and wait a bit. then do everything all over again and this time I search for details, if I wrote down citrusfruit before, look for lemon, orangezest, pineapple etc.
The last thing for my notes is the opinion, here I look for balance (what flavors are dominant and in what order and strength do the flavors develop), and complexity (How easy was it to pinpoint the different flavors and how do they interact with eachother, also how many layers were there? Some malts will never reveal themselfes completely!) and I add my overall opinion of the malt, how did I like it, this is completely subjective I know, but given my method of scoring this is like 10% of the total.
Lastly, have the rest of the dram at ease without looking for anything anymore,This is usually where I take larger sips. when its gone, I check my notes again and compare with the last samples I had, making mild modifications mainly to the opinion field.
Well, Thats how I do it for the moment, but im sure new things and tips will arise sooner or later.