How to Host a Whisky Tasting at Home

You’re a whisky enthusiast and you’ve assembled an impressive whisky collection you’d like to share with privileged friends. You may have attended numerous formal whisky tastings and you’re considering hosting a whisky tasting party at home.

How to Host a Whisky Tasting at Home

Recreating the experience need not be so daunting. Here are top 10 tips on how to host a successful whisky tasting at home.

How to Host a Whisky Tasting at Home

1. Choose a Theme

Decide on the theme of the tasting. Will you choose whiskies from different country such as Scotland, Japan, Australia and USA, is it to be a vertical tasting of various age expressions of the same whisky, or a sampling of different Scottish regions, (such as Highland, Lowland, Speyside, Campbeltown and highly peated Islay whiskies). Would you consider a blind tasting or a whisky and food pairing? Having a theme helps you plan better what you’d like to offer your guests.

2. Select the Whisky

Keeping it simple is key to hosting a whisky tasting at home. Choose no more than 4 to 5 whiskies, served in 15 ml pours (you can always have more) and tell your guests in advance not to drive. Start with the lightest whiskies in ascending flavour profile leaving the peated or sweetest till last.

3. Prepare Your Setting

Pick a location for the tasting where your guests will be comfortable. Prepare a tasting mat or tasting note cards and provide pen and paper for guests to make their own notes.

4. Use the Right Glassware

Use a Glencairn or tulip shaped glass with a tapered rim. If you don’t have enough glassware, your guests may be able to help by bringing their own. If you decide to pre-pour the whisky before your guests are seated, make sure the glasses are covered by sheet of paper.

5. Provide Plenty of Water

Have carafes of water handy with glasses and pipettes for those who like a few drops in their drams. Avoid ice and sparkling water. Still water at room temperature works best.

6. Have Sensory Plates

Whisky tasting is a sensory experience so provide sensory plates and visual cues where guests can touch, smell and taste. Examples include coffee beans, dried apricots, chocolate, almonds, cinnamon quill, nutmeg, orange peel and liquorice.

7. Start with a Palate Cleansing Cocktail

Start the tasting with a cocktail on arrival that acts as a palate cleanser. Choose one that is light, refreshing, quick to make and doesn’t assault the palate. Cocktails such as the whisky sour, whiskey smash or highball work perfectly well.

8. Choose the Right Food

Provide something neutral to eat in between each whisky to cleanse the palate such as plain crackers. If you’re pairing whisky with food, chocolate, cheese and fruit can act as flavour enhancers.

9. Introduce Each Whisky

Briefly introduce each whisky and explain how to taste whisky, it helps those who are uninitiated in the group. But don’t make your guests wait too long before the first tasting. Remember that masterclass where you waited 53 minutes before you had the first sip? Don’t be that person.

10. Encourage Engagement

Encourage guests to share their tasting notes and make sure the newcomers feel comfortable even if you don’t agree with them. Remember when you first started and you were made to feel welcome? Whisky tasting is a learning experience but also a lot of fun remembering that no two palates are alike.


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How to Host a Whisky Tasting at Home was last modified: June 13th, 2017 by Corinne Mossati
Corinne Mossati

Corinne Mossati is the Founder/Editor of Cocktails & Bars and popular online magazine Gourmantic. She is named in the Australian Bartender Magazine Top 100 Most Influential List since 2013, is a member of The World’s 50 Best Bars Academy who judges the World’s 50 Best Bars. She has also judged the Australasian Whisky Awards and various national cocktail competitions. Read the full bio here.