Since living in Scotland for a year, there has not been a day without me thinking about all the fun I had with friends celebrating all the historical traditions of St. Andrews and enjoying the fruits that Scotland had to offer. I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know so much about Scotland and its culture, which involves an overwhelming amount of great food and drinks. One experience that stayed with me was getting to know and appreciate scotch whisky. I didn’t have the palate for Scotch, and after going to a few Scotch Whisky tastings, I’ve come to love the experience around it all as I finally built the tongue and maturity to drink and enjoy it. Before I dive into how to host a Scotch whisky tasting, you need to know a bit about the drink.
A Little about Scotch Whisky
Scotland’s staple crops were oats and barley. The farming community in Scotland benefitted off of the distillation of the crop as Scotland is known for its harsh cold, wet climate. Distilling allowed for the use of grains since long-term storage was impossible. Turning the dry grain into alcohol was a much better solution. The “distilled water” treated illnesses and eventually became part of the culture as Scotch whisky distillation continued helping people survive taxes and government regulations.
Today, five regions in Scotland produce distinctive Scotch whiskies. Each has unique attributes and characteristics. That I thought I would simply describe below before diving into how to host a Scotch whisky tasting
- Lowland - Mild, mellow, and delicate. They’re not always made with barley, but usually include wheat and corn.
- Highland - Primarily single malt or made with 100% barley. So they are bold, full-bodied, and flavorful.
- Islay - Smokey and medicinal with hints of sea salt and minerals.
- Speyside - Honey, vanilla, and ripe green fruits like apples and pears. They’re elegant and balanced.
- Campbeltown - dry and pungent combining maritime notes and fruit.
What You Will Need
In order to know how to host a Scotch whisky tasting, there are a few things you’ll need to help you get the full experience.
- Variety of Scotch Whiskies - I like to have 5 with each highlighting one of the regions of Scotland
- Glencairn glass set - lets your savor the complexity of the Scotch whisky by allowing you to properly smell and sip it.
- room temperature spring water - can be used to sip between the different Scotch whiskies or lightly dilute the whisky to get a different experience.
- unsalted crackers - to cleanse your palate
What To Do
- I love showing showing this YouTube video to give everyone a brief introduction to Scotch whisky.
- Arrange four or five glasses depending on the amount of whiskies you will be tasting for each participant. Add about 1.5 ounces of each whiskey to a glass.
- Once the whiskey is pour hold it up to the light. Whiskey should be “brilliant to they eye” and any manipulation in the crisp color means poor craftsmanship.
- Arrange the whiskey by color from light to deep amber. This helps you understand flavor intensity. Whiskies that are light have a milder flavor and a sweeter aroma, whereas whiskies with a deeper color are more full-bodied and often aged.
- Before smelling the whiskey, or before you nose the whiskey, add just a bit of the room temperature spring water. The temperature is important as it doesn’t hinder the aroma. The water is used to release the oils of the ingredients by neutralizing the alcohol.
- Before taking in the aromas, gently swirl the whiskey in the glass to release the aromas. Then just breathe like you normally would. Look for hints of citrus, leather, vanilla, smoke, cinnamon or fruit.
- Then taste the whiskey. Try to pick up the flavors of what you smell, but remember everyone will pick up different notes. It’s part of the fun to do this experience with two or more.
- Repeat the process with the other whiskies and be sure to cleanse your palate after each with an unsalted cracker.
I bet you’re not wondering how to host a Scotch whiskey tasting anymore! Even if you think you’re not a Scotch whisky fan, I would recommend giving this experience a chance. You would be surprised!