Tasting whisky can be great fun and a fantastic way to learn about the mysteries of Scotland’s national drink.

You don’t need to be an expert to make a sampling session with a few friends a hugely worthwhile experience, and the more you taste, the more you learn the patterns and themes that underpin the hundreds of brands available to choose from.

And remember, even the greatest expert had to start somewhere, so why not give it a go?

Here are some tips I was given to help me make the most of a tasting session:

1 Buy a nosing glass: It makes a huge difference, as it concentrate the aromas of the whisky. There are lots to choose from, and they needn’t be expensive.

Any good whisky shop will sell them – or you can always look online.

Also, because these glasses are quite small, it also fights the temptation to pour too big a measure!

2 Take your time: You will never get the full pleasure of tasting a new dram if you rush it.

Take time to smell the whisky. Really try to work out what you detect.

When you taste it, don’t just swallow it straight away, but swill it round your mouth. An ambassador from one of the top brands once said: “Chew it, Andy.” Then, when you swallow, try to work out what you taste/feel at the finish.

3 Stick to a routine: That way you get a consistent experience of the drams you taste.

Mine is to nose, taste and then think about the finish in three stages – neat, then with a couple (and I mean just a couple) of drops of water, and then with more water.

This gives me a really good wide-ranging impression of what the whisky is about, but I know I get a good comparison with other whiskies too.

4 Take notes: This really concentrates your mind and forces you to work out what you are experiencing.

Some people also like to keep score – say marks out of 10 for nose, palate and finish. I’ve never done this, but do try it and if it works for you, incorporate it into your tasting routine.

5 Do it with a friend: Having someone else to bounce ideas off, to discuss what you’re detecting, adds a massive extra dimension to your tasting.

Also, trying a new dram, or sharing a special bottle, should be social occasion.

6 Try more than one dram at a time: This allows you to really compare and contrast different characteristics. It also allows you to identify patterns and common properties of whiskies you never thought could be similar.

7 Don’t finish the dram you’re tasting: This is just a wee suggestion I’ve found useful. Leave a little in the bottom of the glass and come back to it after five or 10 minutes. It’s amazing how the character of the dram will have changed, and often that aroma you were detecting before, but couldn’t pin down, is as clear as day second time round.

8 Don’t stress: Tasting notes often talk about very specific tastes and smells, and you probably won’t be able to find them.

Don’t worry about that. It’s what you detect that matters.

Just try to identify what you can – as you learn more you’ll find the patterns and the ways that best describe what you’re experiencing.

Remember, “over-ripe pears” in the notes might just be that fruity richness you’re smelling.

9 Experiment: Try a bit of chocolate or fudge, cheese or a piece of ham with your dram.

It’s amazing how much an additional flavour will enhance your tasting experience, so get inventive and see what works.

10 Have fun! Trying new whiskies – or coming back to ones you already know and love – is a brilliant way to spend an evening … especially if you share it with friends.

Good company, good food, good music, great whisky – what more could you want?