The language of that famous elixir can be confusing, but in this extract from Lonely Planet Magazine, Neil Wilson (whisky aficionado and author of Lonely Planet guides to Scotland and Edinburgh) sheds a little light on it:
Start off by serving your whisky neat, or with a little water added. To appreciate the aroma and flavour to the utmost, a measure of malt whisky should be cut (diluted) with one- to two-thirds as much spring water. Still, bottled spring water will do; ice-cold tap water – except for Edinburgh's exceptionally clean-tasting tap water – and (God forbid) mixers are for philistines. Would you add lemonade or ice to a glass of Chablis?
Now for some tasting tips. Go into a bar and order a Lagavulin (Islay) and a Glenfiddich (Speyside). Taking each one in turn, hold the glass up to the light to check the colour; stick your nose in the glass and take two or three short, sharp sniffs, followed by a sip or two. Then cut each one with half as much again of still spring water, and repeat the process. By now, you will be getting funny looks, but nevermind that. For the Lagavulin, you should be thinking: amber colour, peat-smoke, iodine, seaweed. And for the Glenfiddich: pale whitewine colour, malt, pear drops, acetone, citrus.