If you’re missing out on the vibrant conversation that comes with meeting friends for drinks, you’re not alone. Social distancing measures nationwide means we have had to get creative with our favorite after-work activities. Enter: virtual spirit tastings. Undeterred by social distancing, whiskey lovers around the world have embraced happy hours with friends and family through virtual meetings. And when calamity surrounds us, a way to decompress amidst continuous negative news is imperative.
So, how do these virtual happy hours go down? Follow these seven easy steps to plan the perfect virtual whiskey tasting. You’ll maintain the energy of whiskey camaraderie in a password-protected speakeasy-like setting. Trust us!
Step One: Gather your friends and choose a conferencing tool
Even before the pandemic, a variety of video group meeting platforms and websites offered ways to meet virtually. Select one of the options, including Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts, High Five, FaceTime or GoToMeetings, and make sure everyone has it downloaded and ready to go. Recreate the Brady Bunch with grid view, which helps you see everyone simultaneously.
Step Two: Decide on a batch of whiskey to taste
What’s the fun in having a tasting if you’re all drinking different whiskey? Decide on a batch of whiskey to taste and make sure everyone has access to the same whiskey. If you’re looking for an easy way to experiment with great bottles of whiskey, RackHouse Whiskey Club has you covered. RackHouse scours the U.S. looking for the best craft distilleries with the most interesting stories to curate a unique subscription box filled with full-size bottles of hard-to-find small batch whiskey. Which means you and your friends will taste-test the same bottles of great whiskey.
Step Three: Set the ground rules
As a general rule of thumb, virtual tastings work best with groups of 2-8 people at a time. Schedule the time in advance and make sure everyone is organized with the whiskey list, agreed upon conferencing platform and log-in details. Get your whiskey, water, glassware and any other accessories ready to go. Consider designating one person to be the master of ceremonies or discussion leader. A spreadsheet is a great way to record group notes that can be sent to everyone after the tasting is over.
Step Four: Conduct first tasting as a group
There are a few different ways you can go about the testing. The first strategy is to focus on familiar whiskey. For this tasting, you’ll have the group taste familiar expressions by selecting a whiskey that you already own. The idea behind this strategy is to glean new insights from a whiskey you’re already familiar with. Taste it all together on the video conference and then compare your notes online. Even if the whiskey is an old favorite, by comparing your tasting notes you may be able to gain a deeper appreciation or look at it in a new way.
Step Five: Conduct second tasting as a group
The second strategy is to taste-test a whiskey that’s new to you and to the group. Each member will taste the whiskey and share his/her impressions. Everyone will take turns sharing their tasting notes of the whiskey you’re all sampling. By encouraging each person to share notes, you’ll learn about a whiskey and its range of expressions. Once everyone has had a chance to taste it, each person can take a turn guessing the type of whiskey or brand that you’re sampling.
Step Six: Conduct remaining tastings
Repeat the tastings with each of the whiskies you have planned to try and record each person’s notes. Be sure to record the reaction from every group member to achieve the full experience.
Step Seven: Vote on your favorite
Now for the fun part: it’s time to vote on the group favorite and which whiskey you look forward to rotating into your at home bar. This is an excellent time to plan your next virtual (or, fingers crossed, in-person!) tasting and set an agenda for the types of whiskey you plan to try next.
The beauty of a whiskey tasting, whether virtual or in person, is that it gives you and your friends the opportunity to give honest feedback in real-time. You’ll learn about great whiskey and spend quality time with friends and family. And it’s a much-needed break away from the ordinary - or in this case - extraordinary. Cheers!