A successful tasting will require careful planning. This doesn’t have to be an arduous task and it will guarantee your guests will leave wishing for more and hoping for a return invitation soon. Most of these tasks are common sense and are done almost subconsciously. It’s just important to consciously list and check each to avoid any unpleasant surprises. Here are some easy tips to consider.
It might be fun to invite the entire neighborhood but will your space accommodate them keeping in mind that each taster will need a seat at a table with the same number of glasses as Scotches poured, tasting program and notes, water, and other things such as snacks or food?
Select a fun but educational theme. A good example is Scotch regions. Select a Scotch from at least four of the five regions with the goal of identifying and comparing profiles of each. Check out our blog post here to learn more about the regions of Scotland.
Select and purchase your whiskies. If you need help, a Celebration Specialist is happy to help you select a good variety for your tasting event.
Using a tulip shaped whisky glass known as a "nosing glass” or "snifter” is essential. Keep in mind one glass for each whisky for each guest will be required. Four whiskies and ten tasters will require 40 glasses. Not everyone is going to have that many nosing glasses, so we recommend a good quality tulip shaped wine glass
Having a printed program for each taster really steps up the tasting experience by several notches. You will find tasting notes on the products you choose readily available on the web. A little history of the distillery is nice, and include the basic whisky notes such as color, nose, palate, and finish.
Please refer to the example mat provided. This simple mat makes organization of each glass very easy. Under each glass is an outline of the basic tasting components each taster should consider along with a space for notes.
Make sure each taster has a glass of distilled water. Some of the whiskies will be very alcoholic. By adding a teaspoon or so of water, tasters can see and note changes to the color, body, and flavor profiles of the whisky. Distilled water is recommended because tap water will add chlorine and other tastes like mineral to the whisky.
SNACKS & FOOD:
A normal whisky tasting pour is 1.5 ounces. That means that a tasting of four whiskies is a net of six ounces per taster. Providing some food that compliments your theme and Scotland is a good idea.
We like to say Celebrate More. But we also say Celebrate Responsibly. Have plenty of designated drivers.
CONDUCTING THE TASTING:
Be informed about the whisky you have selected and be prepared to speak a little about each and answer questions. Keep tasters together and taste in order of your program. It is a good idea to pour all whiskies at once. A correct pour is 1.5 ounces of each. Caution your tasters that this is a whisky tasting – not a tequila shot! Don’t throw it back – take your time and stay with the tasting leader.
It is recommended to try all the whiskies neat – just as they are poured out of the bottle. Then have tasters add a teaspoon or so of water to each whisky. Allow a little time for the water and whisky to marry. Swirling the glass will speed up this process. Swirling and a little time is necessary to achieve the required result. Some tasters prefer to add an ice cube or two. This is an option that you may want to offer but be sure your ice is made with distilled water.
Both with the neat whisky and the whisky with added water: Talk tasters through the process using the tasting mat as a guide. Make sure the Distiller is noted along with the area and the whisky’s age. Discuss in detail the characters listed starting with color and how does the whisky look. Try to really engage tasters. Notes like "it looks like whisky” are not good. Encourage descriptions that are meaningful. This reminds me of the golden color of the sunflowers in my grandmother’s garden. Or, the color is rustic like the color of the old barn out on Lawson road. Association with these real objects and their location can really be an aid in learning and retaining what you have learned. Move on to body, nose, and palate using the same technique. Encourage input from tasters and remind them there are no bad comments.
Encourage tasters to go back several times during the neat and water-added process and note how the whisky "opens up” after having some time in the glass. We hear very often that the last sip was the best sip – "opening up” really does make a difference.
Summarize by asking tasters a few questions like which was their favorite. Follow on with why. See if there was an overall favorite by show of hands.