Organising a whisky tasting

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Count Silvio
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Sun Aug 24, 2008 7:38 pm

I have been planning to organise a Scotch whisky tasting party but I am not sure what is the best way to proceed with this kind of thing. I have been considering sticking to a certain theme such as single malts only or blended scotch only or perhaps having all kinds of scotch whiskies is better in the beginning.

Idea would be to invite a bunch of people together who would all bring different whiskies that they want to share with friends, then maybe have a blind tasting at the same time and mark all the ratings up.

Have you ever organised a whisky tasting party or been to one and what did you think about it? What are your suggestions or ideas for a whisky tasting party?

I look forward to hearing your ideas and thoughts :tippin:.
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JaRiMi
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Sun Aug 24, 2008 9:19 pm

I've organized several whisky tastings for different types of audiences and I am happy to give you some tips.

A good theme makes the tasting more interesting than a tasting which is based on whatever people may or may not bring with them. Some good themes include:

- Islay Malts

- Whiskies of the World (for example Scotch blend/Scotch malt, Irish blend/malt, Bourbon, Tennessee, Canadian)

- Scottish single malts by regions (this can vary, I have used variations of Lowland, Speyside, Highland, Campbelltown, Island, Islay)

- New World Whiskeys (Bourbon, Tennessee, Canadian - have 2 of each for example, include in there a Rye for interest)

I would not recommend blind tasting occasions except when done with good humour amongst people who do not irk & mock others - simply because the unnecessary pressures often take away the fun and camaraderie felt in a good tasting occasion. I say again, blind tastings are rarely the kind of "ultimate neutrality & proof" tastings people make them out to be.

Make sure you have an idea of in what order the whiskies are served in - if you put a super-smoky Laphroaig as first and then go for a delicate Lowland whisky, I'm afraid all sense of taste is often lost.

Offer water both to drink in between tasted whiskies, as well as something that can be put in the whisky to bring down the alcohol levels (with a small spoon for example). It's good to remember that any alcohol above 38% seriously numbs the palate. I would encourage everyone to taste the whisky as is; and then carefully start adding water to it, to see how it changes and when they feel they've found an optimal balance.

Apart from water, offer something very neutral such as plain white bread in between whiskies for those who wish to try and cleanse their palate.

Discuss the whiskies, and let people make tasting notes. As a host, make an effort to allow each person involved to have their say on the taste of each whisky: This makes all tasters feel involved and doesn't allow more talkative or "knowledgeable" people to drown the other opinions.

Compare the notes of the crowd with those published by manufacturer or some other source, and see how they compare. Even when there's no resemblance, its fun.

At the end, perhaps do a poll and see how people would rate each of the products and which one gained most number one votes.

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Count Silvio
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Sat Aug 30, 2008 10:10 pm

Thats great!

Thanks for the tips, some very interesting theme suggestions there. I especially appreciate that tip on the order of the whiskies, I hadn't considered that but it makes sense to begin with the more delicate ones.

What about time? What is the recommended amount of time spent on each whisky and should there be breaks occasionally?
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JaRiMi
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Sat Aug 30, 2008 10:46 pm

I think it will flow quite naturally once you get started, but I would say maybe 15-20 minutes per whisky, if there is some discussion. I would also encourage gathering some material related to each distillery / whisky / method of production etc, to give some background to the people - but do avoid making biased statements about some products' quality (or lack of it), let everyone decide on their own without guidance towards any conclusion.

One more theme:

- Whiskies "finished" in something along with what the finishes are, i.e. whisky finished in sherry wood and some sherry, whisky finished in Madeira wood and some Madeira, etc, you get the picture. See what the sherry/port/madeira/whatever tastes like, and can those flavours be tasted in the whisky (or how has the finish affected the whisky).

- Ok, not only whisky, but "noble spirits" tasting: Have whisky, cognac, rum, calvados, perhaps some others if you wish side by side.

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forrest
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Tue Sep 02, 2008 2:28 pm

All of JaRiMi's suggestions are excellent.
In my line of work i organize, and attend tastings of every size, quite often (6-8 a month?).
From personal experience the smaller, more focused tastings are the tastings that are more enjoyable, and informative (or perhaps instructional to the palate).
So to form this as a suggestion it would be: Keep it smaller (10-15 people, less than 10 spirits), and if this is informal/friendly you can have 10 people bring spirits, and five people bring snacks (a cheese plate, fruit plate, collations, noshes, and Hors D'Oeuvres of all kinds) to be enjoyed after the proper tasting.
Also it is good to have a vessel for spitting if someone is so inclined (i have found that personal 'plastic' cups work the best for a stationary, or seated tasting.)

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