Your tasting at home (guide and checklist)

Many whisky connoisseurs would like to organise a tasting for friends, acquaintances or colleagues. Of course, they want it to be remembered positively. But what makes a good tasting? Is it the whiskies that are tasted, the participants, or rather the atmosphere? Opinions differ. It is certainly a combination of many factors.

A good tasting is determined by the right selection of whiskies. But there is more to it. In this article we will give you tips on how to set up a tasting so that it is a complete success. So first the question, what is the aim of your tasting? Do you want participants to enjoy whiskies they like to drink or have always wanted to try? Do you even want to impress with special bottlings? Are they professionals or beginners who should learn something new about whisky? Or are you simply interested in having fun in a convivial group?

Preparing a whisky tasting at home

Tasting at home - prepared table
Tasting at home - prepared table

The premises

The choice of venue is crucial to the success of your tasting. To taste a whisky carefully, you should have peace and time. Don't choose a noisy bar, but for example your living or dining room. If you want to taste many samples professionally, you need a large table so that you have enough space for glasses, water, notepads, etc.

Tasting at home - glasses for tasting
Tasting at home - glasses for tasting

Tasting glasses and other accessories

This brings us to the next point, the right equipment. Depending on what kind of tasting you want to organise, you will need more or less equipment. Basic equipment is suitable glasses for tasting in sufficient quantity. A whisky glass should be tapered towards the top so that it can hold the aroma of the whisky and the precious fragrance does not dissipate quickly. This shape is also called a nosing glass. Whether you choose a stemmed glass or a bulbous tumbler is up to you. In general, you should not use glasses that are too large for light whiskies. A strong, smoky whisky, on the other hand, can develop its full strength better in a large glass. If you would like to learn more about glasses, you can find a suitable video here.

Important ingredient for tasting at home: water

Make sure you serve a fresh glass with each whisky or alternatively enough water to rinse the glass. A big gulp of water between samples is good for everyone. It is important that remnants of the previous whisky do not mix with the next in the glass. This distorts the taste experience.

Water is not only helpful for this purpose, but also to dilute a whisky. Especially if you are tasting whiskies at cask strength, you should add a few drops of still water to reduce the whisky to drinking strength. Small water jugs or pipettes have proved useful to measure out the amount of water. Learn more about dilution here.

Offer only still water that has little flavour of its own, i.e. contains minerals, e.g. Volvic or Evian. In some areas you can also use tap water. In the article at this link we explain the influence of the water on the taste of the whisky.

Other useful accessories:

Notes for participants and checklist

When inviting your participants, you should point out, especially to the inexperienced, that you should not come to the tasting sober. Nevertheless, you should not have eaten directly before the tasting, so that the taste of the food, especially spicy food, no longer affects the taste buds. For this reason, we also advise against serving biscuits, chocolate, cheese or other accompaniments to whisky. The intense taste of these foods changes our perception of the whisky. Of course, it can still be interesting if you organise a tasting once, in which you taste different chocolates with different whiskies, for example.

Checklist:

  • The right location (quiet surroundings)
  • Sufficient whisky glasses (best: number of participants * whisky to be tasted)
  • Selection of whisky prepared and bought/ordered - Water (to dilute and drink)
  • Glasses & jugs for water
  • possibly pipettes (for easier dilution)
  • Notepads and pens (for noting impressions)

The complete checklist

The complete checklist for the perfect tasting at home.

Simply download it free of charge:

Checklist Tasting at Home

The selection of whiskies for the tasting

Let's move on to the choice of whiskies. This is probably the most difficult part. If you simply taste the whiskies you have at home, it is easy. If you still have to order the whiskies from us, we recommend the following. The number of whiskies should be between three and a maximum of six. A person cannot taste more in a concentrated way. Our sense of taste is also exhausted after a few whiskies and we no longer taste any differences. It is better to taste only a few whiskies, but in more detail. You should also explain this to your participants.

Whiskies for beginners tastings

If you are holding a tasting for beginners who are not yet familiar with whisky, the standard bottlings from the well-known distilleries are a good choice. You will find many of them in our permanent low prices. Don't choose whiskies that are too complicated or rare. Beginners cannot yet appreciate their taste (and also price). It is also practical if the whiskies are still available for purchase, so that the participants who have acquired a taste for them can also order these bottles after the tasting. If you want to give the participants an overview of the aroma and flavour spectrum of the whisky, then select, for example, one soft, strong, sherry-heavy and one smoky whisky each. If you want the spectrum to be even broader, you can also choose an Irish whiskey, an American boubon or a whisky liqueur. In addition to high-quality single malts, it is also interesting to taste a favourably named supermarket blend. The surprise at the difference in taste will be great.

Aberfeldy 12 Jahre
Aberfeldy 12 Jahre
(385)
0,7 _UNIT_L 40 % vol
34,90
Talisker Skye
Talisker Skye
(110)
0,7 _UNIT_L 45,8 % vol
33,99
Ledaig 10 Jahre
Ledaig 10 Jahre
(253)
0,7 _UNIT_L 46,3 % vol
44,90
Bunnahabhain 12 Jahre
Bunnahabhain 12 Jahre
(491)
0,7 _UNIT_L 46,3 % vol
44,90
Bruadar
Bruadar
(10)
0,7 _UNIT_L 24 % vol
26,90

Whiskies for expert tastings & different mottos

For advanced drinkers, the options are vast. There is no right or wrong choice of whiskies. Tasting is all about getting to grips with the whisky you are tasting. You can put your tasting under a motto, e.g. Islay whiskies, whiskies matured in sherry or wine casks, a particular series, a single distillery, etc. Or you can simply choose new or unknown bottles that your friends don't know yet. Particularly interesting are the evenings when each friend brings a bottle, giving you a motley field. But the whiskies don't always have to be as different as possible. If the whiskies are similar, you have to make an effort to discover the subtle nuances. Even for experienced connoisseurs, this is a challenge.

Order of the whiskies

Sorting by taste, smoke content and alcohol content

We are often asked about the correct order of whiskies. We have therefore provided videos on single malt and bourbon. In principle, you should start with the lighter, softer whiskies. The taste buds in the nose and palate are still as uninfluenced as possible and can grasp the fine aromas better. Then move on to stronger whiskies, e.g. with sherry cask maturation. Only at the end come the strongly smoky ones. Their aroma often lingers in the mouth long after the tasting and covers everything you taste afterwards. The same principle applies to alcohol strength, which is why it is best to go from low to high percentages.

Tasting a whisky at a tasting session

Let's move on to the day of the tasting. Those who like to pour the samples beforehand should take care not to let them stand for too long or to close the glasses with lids, otherwise the aromas of the whiskies will evaporate. It is better to pour just before tasting.

When actually tasting, you don't just drink. First, the whisky should be looked at visually. What colour is it? Is its consistency rather oily or liquid? These characteristics give a first indication of a possible taste. However, one should not rely too much on the colour, because many producers help here with sugar caramel. Then the aroma of the whisky is 'errochen'. Smell the glass not just once, but several times. With each puff, new nuances in the aroma can be discovered. Finally, we come to the real part, the taste in the mouth. The best way is to take small sips and spread them on the tongue. This is because our tongue has 'taste areas', each of which can perceive different tastes. To discover all the notes, the whisky should be tasted with each part of the tongue. Several sips can also be taken for better detection. Also part of the tasting is the finish. What taste remains on the tongue? How does it change?

Together this gives the four rough points:

  • Appearance
  • Aroma
  • Taste
  • Finish

Give the participants enough time. Everyone should first get their own impression of the whisky. Afterwards, you can give tips, especially to those who are still inexperienced, about which aromas can be found in the whisky and exchange ideas. If you want your tasting to have a professional character, distribute notepads so that each participant can note something about the sample.

It is also informative if you can tell something about the background of the bottlings or about whisky in general for beginners. Please inform yourself on our pages beforehand. Whether you are a beginner or an expert, a tasting where the whiskies are completely unknown beforehand is exciting for everyone. You can organise this in different ways. One promising variant, for example, is to announce the whiskies but not exactly which glass they are in. The more similar the whiskies are, the higher the degree of difficulty.

By the way: Don't orientate yourself too much on the taste specifications of the manufacturers. These often come from the marketing department and often do not mention all the notes so as not to scare off potential buyers. Likewise, the wording is usually very pompous and more confusing than accurate.

Tasting at home - Tastingpad
Tasting at home - Tastingpad

The most important thing about tasting at home: the fun

Last but not least, we advise you to take a relaxed approach to tasting. Don't put yourself under pressure and expect that not everything will go as planned. If you are happy to be there, the participants will be too and you will have a great tasting experience.

The tasting of whisky in detail

You can find a deeper insight into the individual steps of the whisky tasting on this page:

The Whisky Tasting

The tasting order

In which order are whiskies tasted? On this page we explain one possible sorting:

Tasting order

Also interesting:

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