Have you ever wanted to bring the magic of a whiskey tasting into your own home? Whether your friends are old hat whiskey drinkers, or whether they’ve only ever knocked back the occasional shot of Jameson on St. Paddy’s Day, we have some tips on how to bring home the fun– for everyone.
1. Don’t forget the ice.
Ice can be an essential part of helping newer drinkers enjoy whiskey. And for some spirits, it can change the entire taste and mouth feel for the better. Don’t skim on the ice. Buy a silly-shaped silicone ice tray for some extra fun, or go with ice spheres to keep everyones’ drinks chilled but not diluted.
2. Keep it simple.
It can be hard to not want to show off ALL your favorite whiskeys. But you don’t want to overwhelm people with a myriad of tastes of flavors. Limit yourself to five at the most. That way, people don’t feel overwhelmed– or get too intoxicated, they no longer know what they’re drinking. Also, try to find different but complimentary tastes. You don’t want people to think they tasted the same drink six times. Experiment with spirits made in different parts of the world, different years, or with different finishes. Whiskey.com has a great guide for picking whiskeys for every experience level.
3. Make sure you have a palate cleanser.
Water is the obvious choice, so make sure you have something cold and refreshing on hand– not just tap. Some bottled waters have strong tastes, so go for something more mild. And beyond the world of water, there’s food. If you’re going to serve hors d’oeveres, make sure they pair well and don’t leave too powerful a taste in the mouth so that the spirits can’t be enjoyed. Scottish oatcakes work as a great, as do strong cheeses, like Roquefort, Stilton, or sharp cheddar. Anything spicy will affect the taste buds, and so should be avoided. Anything sweet should be avoided as well– although some professionals swear by dark chocolate. Crisp fruit, like apples, are also good, but stay away from citrus.
4. Make the space comfortable for talking and learning.
There is a strong social aspect to a whiskey tasting, but it’s not a club event. If you have music playing (or even a live band!), pipe it down while the actual tasting is happening so people can talk about what they are experiencing as they experience it. If you’re a professional bartender, or even a hobbyist, your guests should feel comfortable asking questions. You can also provide notepads and pencils so they can take notes on what they like.
5. Go the extra mile.
If you want to make the evening really memorable (and you have the extra coin to drop), consider pairing this event with something else. Bring in a barber to shape beards, or have personalized whiskey glasses made for everyone (with a little DIYing, you can cut the cost by making them yourself!). Have some cigars on hand, or even have a professional cigar roller come in and give a demonstration.
6. The Afterparty
People will be a little liquored up by the end of the tasting. Make sure they feel comfortable hanging around for a bit. Serve dinner (lamb and pork chops go great with most whiskeys, FYI), or turn up the music and let people dance! Board games also pair well with whiskey, so don’t be afraid to haul out your stash after the main event is over. Whatever you choose, your friends will look back on this night for years to come.