With craft cocktails gone fully mainstream and an ever-expanding crop of artisanal distilleries around the world, whiskey fans officially have it better than ever! One fun way to take advantage of the not-so-recent craze is to host a whiskey-tasting party with family and friends. Dust off some of those classic vintage bottles you have at home, or indulge in some new purchases to impress your guests; most importantly, figure out which one suits you best! Hosting a tasting is a great way to try and discover all sorts of new brands, styles, and flavors of whiskey. Here are a few whiskey tasting party tips to get you started!
Whiskey is a multifaceted drink that has a long history. Do a little research and you’ll find that bourbons, regularly distilled whiskey, Tennessee whiskeys, rye whiskeys, and even scotches all offer varying flavor profiles to make your whiskey tasting party super interesting and fun. Here’s a list of the different whiskey types you could offer:
While reserved partygoers may stick to their favorite type, there will be plenty who are willing to branch out and explore a little bit of everything! Alternatively, to avoid that, you could serve only one type of whiskey with a variety of brands and ages.
Highball glasses, rocks, wine, or even shot glasses will work fine here. If you want to get a little fancier, there are special glasses designed specifically for tasting whiskey, like the Glencairn, which you can typically find inexpensively at any large liquor store.
Wider-mouthed glasses let more of the whiskey evaporate, which carries more aromas into the nose, and clear ones are best so you can judge the whiskeys’ color. Ideally, you want enough glasses so each guest can have a separate one for each whiskey.
As you sip, be sure to write down the smells and notes you pick up onto your tasting note cards – then swap! You’ll love reading how your friends chose to describe the tastes and aromas they sensed compared to your own. There are plenty of note cards available to print online right at home. Make sure they include places to write in the whiskey type, age, aroma, taste, finish, and final score. This is also a fun way to turn the evening into a more social experience!
If you’re going to be drinking, you need to be eating too! Bread, fruit, and cheese are great nibbles for before and during the tasting when you don’t want any super-strong flavors interfering with anything. Afterward, you might want to offer guests something a little heartier; mix things up by making a bunch of whiskey-inspired dishes, or keep it simple and serve a stew, chili, or other slow cooker meal.
Have your guests sip the whiskeys one at a time. Make notes on which spices you taste, or if there are hints of smoke or fruit. Take a small sip and hold it on your tongue while you breathe in through your nose, then swallow and then breathe out through your mouth. Think about what you’re tasting, as well as the order you taste it. As the "finish" plays out after you swallow, are you tasting anything new? Then, have your guests add a few drops of water and taste again. It seems like a small thing, but altering the alcohol level in a whiskey can completely change the aromas and flavors you’re most able to detect.
Though it’s tempting to sample a dozen different whiskeys, it’s always better to keep things simple! Have your guests taste five to seven at most; if you include too many in the mix, it might be a bit overwhelming. Plus, keeping a smaller menu of whiskeys really allows your guest to appreciate and focus on the whiskeys they’ll be drinking!