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!

WHAT YOU NEED:

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) 😉

NEED TO KNOW:

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.

THEMES:

“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!

HOW TO:

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

Great Whisky/Whiskey Shops in NYC

June 11, 2011 § 9 Comments

I was asked on Twitter the other day what stores in NYC have the best whisky collections.

I wish I could have shared a more “secret” shop; a cool, hidden, underground, off the radar type of store that you only know about through word of mouth and need a secret code to get in …. however … I have yet to find that one (or maybe that’s where the small door around the corner leads to!).

Here is the truth of the matter: if it is sold in NYC chances are the sales rep’s first stop is Astor Place Wines & Spirits.  As an Astor employee told me the other day: “if it’s out there – it’s on our shelves”  In addition to a multiple whisky-dedicated floor-to-celling shelves, they also have a few free standing locked cases with some very expensive, high-end and rare whiskies.  They also have a great ecommerce site and can ship to lots of states (bonus!)

The second place to try is Drink Up New York.  Located in Brooklyn, I have yet to venture out to their brick & mortar shop but have purchased from them online.

Another – and most “secretive” of the bunch – is Le Du Wines.  Not only is it a fabulous wine store (#1 by Zagats 2011) but I know that Jean-Luc Le Du is personally on the hunt for some rare, less seen whiskies.  He will be beefing up his true craft bourbon & rye stock to launch early Fall.  I am going crazy with excitement to see what he brings in and how he improves on his ever-impressive and evolving inventory.  Visit the store in person any Saturday from 4-7 to stumble upon an awesome (& typically free!) wine tasting event.  And it usually is an event.

Of course – the other mecca for fantastic, amazing & a truly complete Whisky/Whiskey selections is Park Avenue Liquor Shop!

Is there a shop in your neighborhood that stocks your favorite rare whiskies? Share below!

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