How to host a whiskey tasting party – A whiskey tasting party is fantastic way to gain a greater appreciation for one of the best drinks around. It’s also a great way to gather your friends for a day of fun and learning.
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Whiskey for beginners
Whiskey is a catch-all term that includes bourbon, rye, scotch, and American whisky. All whiskey is made from fermented grain mash (grains such as barley, malted barley, rye, wheat, and corn are used). That grain mash is then distilled, and aged in wood and finally, cut with water.
Bourbon is produced exclusively in the United States.
Scotch comes from Scotland.
Rye or Canadian Whiskey is a multi-grain spirit containing a blend of rye, corn, or wheat.
American whisky uses corn for flavor.
The photo above is of whiskey in a Nova crystal stemless glass from JoyJolt
First, you’ll want to decide how many people to invite to your whiskey tasting party. It’s best to keep the group small, like 5-10 people, so that you can keep the flow of the party organized, and allow conversation about the whiskeys.
You’ll also want to think about your budget. You can provide all the whiskey yourself or have guests bring their own to share. This may depend on your collection of whiskeys, and well as the state of your pocket-book.
Variety is the spice of life, so each taster should have a flight of about 5 to 8 whiskeys for variety. The pours should be about ½ an ounce each, or roughly one finger.
You can choose a theme for your tastings to carefully curate your selection of whiskey. Or you can decide on a few different spirits simply because you like them and want to introduce them to your friends.
What glasses to use
Have a variety of glasses on hand for tastings to keep things fun.
Rocks glasses or whiskey tasting glasses are the ideal beverage ware. You want something with a small to medium bowl size.
You don’t have to give everyone more than 2 or 3 glasses at a time. This will allow people to focus on their beverage.
And, you’ll see in some of the photos that I made ice balls for my party. Ice balls melt more slowly and are super fun at a party! Grab your ice ball maker here.
Photo above: Aren’t these glasses fun! These are Carre Whiskey Glasses
Gather your supplies
Water for drinking and diluting the spirits
Appetizers to cleanse the palate between tastings
Pads of paper or printed score sheets for notes
Decorations – if desired. You can use empty whiskey bottles as flower vases
Score sheets for notes
It’s a great idea to provide score sheets for notes so that your guests can keep track of what they like about the different whiskeys.
You may want to know about each distillery and the region it was produced, as well as the flavor and aroma profiles, so that you can help your guests identify things about each whiskey.
Things to include on your score sheets may include spaces for: the whiskey name, type, age, aroma, color or appearance, taste, and finish.
Some notes may include, colors like apple juice or dark brown. It’s clear or cloudy or murky. Lighter-colored whiskies tend to be lighter in flavor as well. A darker tone is usually an indication of a long aging period. The whiskey may smell fruity or smoky. Are they the same flavors as aromas?
What theme should you introduce?
There are lots of options for themes for a whiskey tasting party.
The easiest theme, of course, is to taste what’s already in your collection. If you’d like to move beyond that, here are some starter ideas. Let your imagination help you here.
Choose different types of whiskeys for a great introductory party, like a bourbon, a scotch, a rye, and an Irish whiskey. Or try all one type, such as all bourbon, all Irish whiskey, or all rye.
Select whiskeys all from the same region, such as Scotland or the American whiskeys.
Assemble a lineup of all the same flavor profile, such as peated or smoky whiskeys.
Or you could taste all single malts. Or all one age, such as 12-year-old whiskeys.
Try a selection of whiskies from around the world, such from India, Taiwan, and Japan.
Photo above: The Revere whiskey tasting glass
Just like for a wine tasting, you’ll want to start off your party with the lightest whiskey first, and gradually move to the heavily flavored or darkest whiskey. This way, the stronger flavors won’t overpower the lighter flavors.
And, again, pours should only be about ½ an ounce each, or roughly one finger.
Be sure to encourage your guests to swirl the whiskey in their mouth before swallowing to enjoy the flavors.
Allow people to taste first without water, and then give them the option to add some water to see if that affects the taste. Add a small amount of room-temperature water to the whiskey in the glass.
Be sure to note any differences on the score sheet.
And cleanse your palate with water and a plain cracker between tastings.
The Photo above: The Luna whiskey glass
Should I serve snacks?
Yes! Besides the fact that plain crackers will help cleanse the palate, you want guests to stay hydrated and alert, and snacks are a great way to do that.
Whiskey is terrific with a nice cheese and charcuterie platter. Check out this tutorial on how to make a rockin’ cheese board. It’s also a great idea to have a dessert platter for guests with a sweet tooth. Check out this guide here.
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Kick it up a notch with a Cocktail
You might want to serve a signature cocktail at your whiskey tasting party.
Feature one of the whiskeys in your cocktail. Or, maybe you find that you really like one kind of whiskey and want to experiment a bit more with it. Here are some cocktails to try.
Whiskey (use your favorite)
Whiskey Ginger with Lime from The Good Hearted Woman
Apple Sidecar from Culinary Ginger
Boulevardier Cocktail Recipe from Pinch and Swirl
Whisky Cold Drip from Sprinkle and Sprouts
Sleepy Time Hot Toddy from Chicken Scratch NY
Honey Whiskey Iced Tea from Creative Ramblings
Whiskey Cherry Smash from Serena Bakes Simply from Scratch
Strawberry Grapefruit Whiskey Iced Tea from Serena Bakes Simply from Scratch
Peach Whiskey Iced Tea from Serena Bakes Simply from Scratch
Cranberry Whiskey Sour from Caroline’s Cooking
The Ward Eight – A Whiskey Cocktail from Gastronom Blog
Spiced Cranberry Moonshine from Whisky + Sunshine
The Mad Hatter: Whiskey Jalapeño Strawberry Cocktail from Whisky + Sunshine
Whiskey Caramel Root Beer Float from Whisky + Sunshine
The Best Hot Toddy from Everyday Eileen
Whiskey Lemonade from My Turn for Us
Apple Whiskey Ginger Sour from Urban Bliss Life
The Georgia Fruit Stand Cocktail from This Mama Cooks
Sparkling Peach Whisky Cocktail from Super Golden Bakes
Georgia On My Mind Peach Whiskey Spritzer Cocktail from This Mama Cooks
Spiked Peach Sweet Tea from Julie Blanner
Maple Apple Whisky Sour Cocktail from Recipes from a Pantry
Whiskey Sprite Lime Cocktail from Cooking LSL
Irish Coffee from Tikkido
White sangria with whiskey, apple and peach from Caroline’s Cooking
Butterscotch Homemade Irish Cream Recipe from Veena Azmanov
Apple Bourbon Moscow Mule Recipe from Noshing with the Nolands
Bourbon Cherry Smash from Noshing with the Nolands
Frozen Gold Rush Cocktail from My Sequined Life
Apricot and Honey Bourbon Sour Cocktail from The Gastronom
The Smoked Cherry – A Bourbon and Brandy Cocktail from The Gastronom
The Roast and Toast – A Bourbon and Coffee Cocktail from The Gastronom
Strawberry Whiskey Champagne Cocktail from My Crazy Good Life
Ginger Whiskey Bourbon Cocktail from My Crazy Good Life
Gold Rush Cocktail from The Live in Kitchen
Bourbon Pomegranate Sour from Mom on the Side
Cranberry Apple Mule from Mom on the Side
Whiskey Sour from Anna’s Entitled Life
Kolsch Watermelon Bourbon Cocktail from Craft Beering
Coconut Water Bourbon Punch from Muy Bueno Cookbook
Whiskey Root Beer Shooters from Sunny Sweet Days
Watermelon Whiskey Cocktail from Sunny Sweet Days
Jammin’ Lemon Ginger Drop from Mom Advice
Jack Daniels Iced Tea from Bake Me Some Sugar
Rye or Canadian Whiskey
Sweet Georgia Peaches from Bobbi’s Kozy Kitchen
King George Cocktail from Anna’s Entitled Life
Rosemary Citrus Old Fashioned from Urban Bliss
The Fifteen: A Cider, Champagne and Whiskey Cocktail from Umamigirl