HOW TO: Create your own Whisky Tasting Party

December 5, 2011 § 13 Comments

I have been attending so many whisky events recently that it got me thinking: what would make these even better?

Answer: To be surrounded with my close friends.

So this holiday season, I offer you this: The Whisky Woman’s Guide to Creating Your Own Whisky Tasting Party .  It’s time to stop fretting and start celebrating!


Whisky (at least 3 different bottles, the more the merrier -for easy online ordering, check out Binny’s, DrinkUpNY, Astor Wines, BevMo, Park Ave Liquor, K&L)

Tulip Shaped Glasses  (to help focus your nose to the delicate aromas, check out Glencarin, -found HERE at Amazon)

Room temperature spring water (if you want to kick it up a notch, buy a dropper or 2 for easier control of the water-adding situation – found HERE at Amazon)

Unsalted Crackers (to cleanse your palate between spirits – also found HERE at Amazon)

Coffee beans (not necessary but I find very helpful when smelling lots of different whiskies during one sitting)

Opaque Container (for spitting and/or dumping – in a pinch, I use mugs – found HERE at Amazon)

Friends (this party can be done by yourself, but it’s WAAAAY more fun to dive into your whisky exploration with your pals around! – easily found HERE at Facebook) 😉


For the novice, familiarize yourself with the different types of whisky.  “Whisky” or “Whiskey” is the main category under which you have Scotch, Bourbon, Rye, Single Malts, Blends, Irish, Canadian, Japanese, American Craft, etc.  If you are new to whisky, I suggest choosing bottles from different categories and going as pure as possible (single malts, straight Bourbons, straight rye) and not because there aren’t good blends out there (there are!) but because the authentic characteristics of each type of whisky are often more diluted or altered in a blend.


“Bring a bottle” – you can have each guest bring a bottle (though perhaps it’s best to confirm choices before hand so you can make sure you have some diversity)

“Vertical” – like a Vertical Wine flight, you can do a tasting of the same producer but different years

“Single category” – having different producers from the same category (like all Ryes or all Canadian whiskies) to start to understand the different nuances between the distilleries (think about their production methods and their climate & altitude locations as these effect how the whiskies age in the casks).

“Single Region” – look at trying Scotch’s all from the same area, Bourbons from just Kentucky or Tennessee

“Craft vs Mass Producer” – look for a small producer (perhaps one that is close to your neck of the woods?) and compare their product to one of the “big boys”

Feel free to get creative!  This is the fun part!


1) Pour whisky & pass around to friends

2) Observe color and clarity (murkiness is OK! If your whisky is cloudy, the distiller did NOT use chill-filtration before bottling which removes impurities but also removes flavors)

3) Smell!  Putting your nose gently above the glass (give it some space!) start to inhale and enjoy the different notes you find.  Get in there – move your nose around to different points around the mouth of the glass, top, bottom, sides, open your mouth as you inhale through your nose … this will help you find different flavors.  Move your head away from the glass, inhale non-whisky air, and go back in again.

4) Chew – Take a very small sip that is enough to prep your palate but not enough to swallow.  “Chew” it by moving it around your mouth, letting it dissolve on your tongue.

5) Taste.  Be taken away by the spirit!  Pay attention to how it changes as it moves around, how it feels once you’ve swallowed it and the lingering effect it leaves in your mouth (called the “finish”)

6) Be a chemist!  Time to add a few drops of water.  This helps to calm down the alcohol and bring out the more delicate notes of the whisky.  Nose it again than drink and enjoy!

7) Rinse and repeat!

Photo credit: Sebastian Yao, Fix It In Post, (c) 2011 for Local Infusions. Please respect the photographer and do not steal this photo and use illegally


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§ 13 Responses to HOW TO: Create your own Whisky Tasting Party

  • G-LO says:

    Yo WW!

    Once again, DAMN GOOD ADVICE! I can’t argue with any of it. Oh wait… I disagree with your cracker choice. I would go with a Carr’s Water Cracker or perhaps some unsalted Oyster Crackers. Also, some food would be nice. Perhaps some smoked fish or sushi. Other than that, WELL DONE! I mean, it wouldn’t be much fun if I agreed with you 100% of the time. Heh


  • Eeks! G-LO!
    I’ve been a terrible blogger these last few weeks! ‘Tis the season…

    So sorry for my late response to your hilarious reply. I TOTALLY concur that there is room for a serious cracker-update here. The Carr’s are a great, classic choice and I have to say I’m loving the Oyster Cracker idea – 1) they’re a blast to pop into your mouth and I think there is an inevitable game of food-toss that happens once a bag has been opened and 2) they’re the perfect size bite to cleanse the palate without overwhelming it with too much cracker.

    I always appreciate your comments and thoughts – you add so much to this blog site!!!

    Many many thanks,

  • steveo says:


    I would say one of the key things to get correct is the order of whiskies. having a heavily sherried dram before a heavily smoked dram will screw up your tasting of the second dram.

    I would also suggest, and this could just be a Scottish thing, try Oatcakes and chocolate to cleanse the palate.

    I have a site with a free tasting guide

  • Kim D. says:

    Wow, thankyou for the wounderful advise. I have been wanting to do a pairing like this and wanted some solid information. Their seems to be more about Wine tastings than Wisky tastings. I plan on doing both, due to people tastes.
    Are there any other pairings to do wisky with other than crackers, I’m hoping to do wine and wiskey tastings the same night (different group of people) and would like to have a couple more options. Even after the orgional tastings.

    • Hi Kim!
      So sorry for my delayed response – hope this still finds you in time 🙂 Yes – I love pairing whisky with a ton of different food options. You can think of it as you would wine, anything fatty and/or salty work great: salty meats, cheeses, olives, pickles, and also chocolates (personally I prefer dark but try a variety to find your favorites). I use crackers as a palate cleanser between drams but love having food available for noshing. Always recommend that people try the whiskies with a clean palate and then again after they eat something to see if they notice a change and to note if they like it or not. I’m often enjoying a glass of whisky with my meal and love exploring how a variety of foods effect my experience with a particular whisky. Good fun!

  • All works! Though I’ve been finding cucumber or unsalted breadsticks a better palate cleanser between samples. 🙂 Also need to take time with each whisky… been discovering it is sometimes a good idea to set the 1st one aside to breath more and revisit – interesting things can happen!

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