Thinking about having a whiskey tasting among friends? Even if you’re hosting a virtual whiskey tasting, setting the scene is the most important step. Knowing your goals for the tasting can help inform what you plan to serve. Do you want to introduce your friends to whiskey they’ve always wanted to try? Or do you want to impress them with special bottles? Would you consider them tried-and-true connoisseurs or beginners who are new to whiskey? Or do you simply just want to enjoy a fun evening with good company? Once you outline your goals for the tasting, these are the must-have items you’ll need to consider for the event.
Prepare the atmosphere
As you put together the tasting, you’ll want to pay close attention to the location. To really enjoy a thorough whiskey tasting, you need time and a relaxed atmosphere like your own living room. A loud bar is probably too distracting to have a conversation and discuss the whiskey. You’ll also need a table that’s large enough to hold glasses, water, whiskey bottles, paper pad for note taking, etc. As a general rule of thumb, the glencairn style is the best whiskey glass for tasting because it holds the aroma of the whiskey and the smell doesn’t evaporate too quickly. The most important note on whiskey glasses is that you should select one that is easy to swirl the whiskey with.
You’ll also want to have one glass for each whiskey and enough water on the table for rinsing your glass and your palate. It’s important that your glass has no leftover whiskey in it for the next tasting as it could distort the flavor. Keep a dump bucket on the table for emptying your excess whiskey and water following a quick rinse. Water is also helpful for diluting the whiskey, especially if you’re tasting a cask strength whiskey. Adding a couple of drops of water will reduce the whiskey to drinking strength. An eye dropper or glass pipette is an excellent tool for diluting.
Decide on the whiskey
When it comes to a whiskey tasting, less is more. Whether you use ones you have at home or buy new, it’s best to provide between three and six whiskies, and no more than that. It’s difficult to stay focused for more than six different types of whiskey. Your taste perception is impaired after a few tastings and you won’t be able to notice any more nuances or differences in the flavor profile. It’s better to taste only a few and go into greater detail. If you want to branch out and try whiskey you may not be able to buy locally, RackHouse Whiskey Club is an excellent way to introduce new, hard-to-find small batch craft whiskey.
Choose the order of the tasting
It’s better to pour the whiskey right before you begin the tasting. And, yes, the order of the tasting does matter. In general, you should start with lighter and more mild whiskey as your first tasting. The reason is because your taste buds have not been affected and can detect subtle aromas. Next you can graduate up to a stronger whiskey. Save the heavily peated whiskey for the end. The aroma of that style of whiskey will linger in your mouth long after tasting and affects the taste of things afterward. It’s more informative if you’re able to give the background of the whiskey while everyone is tasting. RackHouse scours the U.S. looking for the best distilleries with the most interesting stories.
Consider tasting blind
Tasting “blind” is a way to taste without knowledge of a whiskey’s identity and the main reason to do it is to get rid of any biases. As a result, you can learn to really taste the whiskey, rely on more heightened senses and cultivate a true awareness of your own preferences. For the tasting, you can keep the whiskey a secret until the end or reveal which ones you’re tasting but not which whiskey is in each glass. The more similar they are to each other, the harder it is to differentiate.
At the end of the day, the main goal for any tasting is to have fun and experience new whiskey. Approach the tasting in a relaxed way and don’t put pressure on yourself to be perfect. As a parting gift to friends you can buy 2 oz. glass bottles, which is a perfect way for them to take whiskey home to sample later. Cheers!