There’s a difference between drinking whiskey and tasting whiskey. But either way, it’s best done when you get the chance to spend time with someone you love. Whether you’re the big whiskey fan or it’s your father (or maybe both of you!), a whiskey tasting is a fun way to bond, learn something new together, and involve the whole family. Here’s everything you need to know to host a whiskey tasting this Father’s Day.
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How Much Whiskey Do I Need?
There’s a fine line when it comes to deciding how much whiskey to drink at a tasting. On one hand, you want to make sure that everyone has enough different varieties to try to keep it interesting. However, you also want to keep in mind palette fatigue — and your wallet.
In general, between four and six whiskeys is a good amount to try. If you’re worried about spending the money, you can have a few different family members each bring a bottle.
A typical tasting is a 1/2-ounce pour. In most cases, that means a single bottle of each whiskey should be plenty for everyone to try some, and to have a bit leftover to enjoy your favorites again and again.
Okay, But Which Whiskeys Should We Get?
I can’t answer that with an exact list. Instead, I’ll give you a few! Everyone has different tastes when it comes to drinking, and whiskey comes in so many different varieties. Consider your guests, your own preferences, and of course, your guest of honor. Does dad have a favorite whiskey? Theme the rest around that as a starting point.
You can do a themed tasting, where each whiskey has one attribute in common with the others:
- You could try all whiskeys from the same location like local distilleries, or all Irish.
- Or try a few different brands of the same variety, like a selection of bourbons.
- Another idea is to get all whiskeys that have been aged the same amount of time, like 10 or 15 years.
If you don’t want to choose everything yourself, have a potluck style tasting. Allow everyone to choose their own whiskey to bring within a price range. Or assign an attribute like location, and have each guest bring a bottle from a different city, state, or country.
Here’s a few sets you can start with if you have no clue where to begin:
- Famous Kentucky Bourbons: Bulleit, Maker’s Mark, Woodford Reserve, Knob Creek, Buffalo Trace
- 10-Year Aged Whiskeys: Henry McKenna, Tullamore Dew, Bushmills, Glenmorangie
- All Different Styles: Wild Turkey Bourbon, Jameson Irish Whiskey, The Glenlivet Scotch, Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey, Sazerac Rye, Crown Royal Canadian Whiskey
- Fun Flavored Whiskeys: Evan Williams Honey, Skrewball Peanut Butter, Ole Smoky Salty Caramel, Cask & Crew Walnut Toffee
Host a whiskey tasting for Father’s Day, or any time! This guide breaks down every single detail you need.
How Do I Prepare For the Whiskey Tasting?
Begin by determining how you want to drink your whiskeys. Do you want to give background info on each, or have it be a blind tasting where everyone has to guess an attribute? Are you providing all the drinks or are your guests bringing surprises?
The answers to these questions can determine your drinking order. However, a good rule of thumb is to start with the lightest whiskey, either by color, weight, or the youngest in age, and then move up to the richest and oldest. If you have a smoky whiskey, save that for the end.
You will want to provide water for each of your guests. First, you’ll need drinking water, so everyone can make sure they are enjoying the event responsibly. You may also want to have a bit of water available to add to the whiskey. Using a fancy whiskey dropper or a more affordable eyedropper to add a few drops after the first taste, which can open up the spirit and reveal hidden flavors.
Snacks are a must. You’ll want something to work as a palette cleanser, such as plain salty crackers. However, it can also be fun to try pairing the whiskeys with different cheeses, chocolates, or other salted snacks like nuts and pretzels. Just avoid anything spicy or overly flavorful. That can take away from your tasting.
It can be fun to write down some notes while tasting, and compare them later. You can find so many different designs of whiskey tasting notebooks, place mats, and cards on Etsy. Many of these are printable, so it’s easy to have just enough. Also provide pens or pencils for everyone.
For serving, you will want the whiskey at room temperature, so there isn’t a ton of prep you’ll need to do ahead of time. The ideal glasses to use are snifters or tulip glasses. However, you may find that small shot-sized glasses are more accessible and affordable.
Cool, Let’s Start Tasting!
Everything’s ready to go, and you can finally start tasting! Pour the samples one at a time for each taster, so they can really focus on the individual whiskey. Begin by explaining a little bit about the background of the whiskey – unless you’re doing a blind tasting.
You can go into as much or little detail as you want here, from simply passing around the bottle to see the distillery name and label, to doing a little extra research on your own. Many distilleries have their stories published on their websites, which is a great place to start.
Before tasting, have everyone begin by looking at the appearance of the whiskey. Discuss the color, whether it’s clear or a little bit cloudy, and the thickness or viscosity. Tilt the glass slightly to see how the whiskey sticks to the sides before sliding down.
Next move on to the aroma. Have everyone hold the glass at a slight angle above their nose. This will help you get the essence of the whiskey without being overwhelmed by alcohol. You will likely get more out of your second whiff.
Finally, take your first sips. Allow a small amount to rest on your tongue and in your mouth while you think about the flavors. Then swallow, and recognize any tastes or differences in the finish.
Between each step, the group can discuss their observations. If all you smell is alcohol and taste whiskey, that’s okay! It can be difficult to pull out specific details, especially if you’re new to tasting. A flavor wheel can also be a good starting point if you have trouble finding the right words.
Move on to the next whiskey, and repeat the steps. Encourage your guests not to drink the entire sample before moving on. After trying each individually, it can be fun to compare side by side.
Any Other Whiskey Tasting Related Ideas?
Whether you want to expand your whiskey tasting into a full-on party, or you’re looking for something else to make it special for dad, these ideas will get you there.
Related Gifts for Dad
You can gift your father a nice bottle of whiskey, let him have whatever’s leftover from the tasting, or buy a little something extra special just for him:
- If he’s just starting to learn, he will enjoy a book all about whiskey, like A Field Guide to Whiskey by Hans Offringa.
- For the seasoned drinker who wants to upgrade his bar, a personalized decanter set is a gorgeous gift.
- If he likes his whiskey chilled, but not watered down, try a personalized set of whiskey stones.
- Or for something cute and fun, check out this scratch and sniff guide by Richard Betts.
Make it Virtual
If you’re still social distancing, hosting a whiskey tasting in-person may not be possible this month. If you’re local, you can portion out whiskeys for all attendees into small bottles and deliver them. Or if your family is more spread out, suggest a few types of affordable whiskey everyone can buy to try. Then host a video chat and let everyone taste as usual!
We love a good bourbon drink around here! If you want to keep the party going after your whiskey tasting, mix up a few cocktails. Bourbon mint lemonade, an Amaretto old fashioned, or a chocolate turtle martini are all fun drinks that feature bourbon. Or for something more classic, try a mint julep.
Food Featuring Whiskey
After all the drinking, you can have some fun with snacks, dinner, or dessert. Try making dishes that include whiskey as an ingredient, like a whiskey barbecue sauce or these corn fritters with bourbon-maple syrup.