I don’t think you need a specialized vocabulary in order to be able to enjoy and distinguish different subtleties in whatever you’re drinking. It does help a bit for talking about them with other people, though. So I rustled up some resource for terminology and flavour ranges in scotch.
This flavour map to the left is provided by malts.com, so it seems to only have their scotches on it, but its a good place to start since they represent some of the best. For a list of general whisky flavour terms, check out Whisky Magazine‘s flavour wheel, which clusters similar flavouremes fairly logically.
I think its important to say, with these flavour terms – your mileage may vary. One of the reviews I did for the blog, I pointed out that I got almost the opposite flavours from what were described on the bottle. Had I read the bottle first, its entirely possible I would have tasted some of what they described, either by the power of suggestion/conformity/social norms, or because I would have had specific flavours to look for in advance.
While you can call it haggis juice at home, writing about scotch and whisky and whiskey does take a little finesse as people get testy quickly – as this New York Times author found out. Here’s my understanding: Scotch whisky and Irish whiskey and rye whiskey (unless from Canada, then rye whisky) and bourbon and Canadian whisky and malt whiskey and corn whiskey and malted rye whiskey and Tennessee whiskey and on and on – are all varieties of whiskey. If its Scottish, Canadian and (I think) Australian, its whisky. Otherwise, its whiskey. And its all good, its just that single malt scotch is the best (wink).
Lastly, I’m not going to send you to pages that tell you how to enjoy scotch (other than responsibly, or whatever). You know how to smell and taste things – if you don’t, you need a different blog – and spitting out perfectly good scotch is a hate crime, if you ask me.