expert whiskey tasting

Whiskey tasting resources: Venues, hosting & more

Our whiskey tasting resources explore the basics of whiskey tasting to venues to visit from around the world.

Join us as we cover everything you need to know about whiskey tasting, and recommend the best venues for whiskey tasting including renowned distilleries and popular whiskey bars in South Africa, the United States and more.

Read on to find out more, and join our community to receive exclusive features on the best whiskey tastings worldwide as we grow.

Resources for whiskey tasting: Hosting, pairing & more

Our whiskey tasting resources include everything to help understand and prepare for a whiskey tasting.

Whether you’re interested in the right way to taste whiskey, setting up your own blind whiskey tasting, or finding the best food pairings for different types of whiskey - you can find it covered in our content featured below.

Whisky tastings in South Africa

We cover a variety of whisky tastings to try across South Africa.

South Africa is home to a variety of whisky tastings across its nine provinces, held at venues including hotels, bars, exclusive tasting rooms, distilleries, and more.

Whether you’re looking to attend a tasting in Cape Town, Johannesburg, or anywhere else in the country, our curated lists of the best whisky tastings broken down by region can point you in the right direction.

We cover a bit about what each tasting experience involves and its pricing, and how learn more about each experience and organise your booking.

Whiskey tastings in the United States

We cover a variety of whiskey tastings to try across the United States.

The United States boasts a rich tradition of whiskey production, with tastings available in almost every state, from bustling bars to historic distilleries. Whether it’s Kentucky bourbon, Tennessee whiskey, or craft whiskey from an up-and-coming distillery,  there’s a flavor for every palat and a story behind every sip.

Whether you are based in, or travelling to, Houston, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles or somewhere in between—our curated lists of the best whiskey tastings by region will help you learn more about what each experience includes and how to book.

Frequently asked questions about whiskey tasting

What is the meaning of “whiskey tasting”?

Whiskey tasting is the act of sampling different whiskies to appreciate their flavors, aromas, and textures, typically done in a variety of settings.

Whiskey tastings can take place in various environments, ranging from whisky bars to distilleries. A whiskey tasting provides an opportunity to explore whiskies from around the world, explore their flavour and aroma profiles, learn about their production processes and the nuances of each type of whiskey at your tasting.

How to set up or host whiskey tasting?

To host a whisky tasting, start by selecting a variety of whiskies, ensuring a mix of types and origins. Prepare a comfortable space with good lighting and give each participant a glass for tasting.

When planning a whiskey tasting, it’s crucial to sequence the whiskies from the lightest to the most full-bodied to maintain the integrity of their flavors. Provide water for guests to cleanse their palates between tastings and have a spittoon available. Enhance the experience by providing detailed information about each whiskey, including its distillation process, flavor notes, and ideal food pairings.

For an enhanced whiskey tasting, consider including a variety of foods that complement the flavor profiles of the whiskies. Cheese, chocolates, and nuts are excellent choices for balancing the rich flavors, while cured meats can bring out unique notes in each whiskey.

How to do a blind whiskey tasting

To conduct a blind whiskey tasting, label each whiskey discreetly and serve them in a random order. This method ensures that tasters form unbiased opinions based on the whiskey's flavor alone.

In a blind tasting, participants evaluate whiskies without knowing their identities, which can prevent preconceived notions about brands or price points from influencing their perceptions. Provide participants with a scorecard to note their impressions of each sample, which can include aspects like aroma, taste, and finish. 

After revealing the whiskies, discuss the notes and reveal the true identities, which can lead to interesting insights and surprises.

What to serve with whiskey tasting

During a whiskey tasting, pair the beverages with light snacks that enhance the flavors without overwhelming them. Good options include cheeses, dark chocolate, and unsalted nuts.

Offering the right food can significantly enhance the whiskey tasting experience. Cheeses like blue cheese or aged cheddar complement the richness of whiskey, while dark chocolate can bring out its deeper notes. Fresh fruits or small servings of smoked meats also pair well, providing a pleasant contrast to the whiskey's complexity. 

How long does a whiskey tasting last?

A whiskey tasting can last anywhere from one to three hours, depending on the number of samples and the depth of discussion desired by the host or participants.

The duration of a whiskey tasting often varies based on the event's structure. If it includes a presentation about the whiskies, their origins, and production methods, it may take longer. 

Additional time may be necessary if the tasting is part of a larger event, such as a dinner or educational workshop, where participants engage more deeply with the material and each other.

If enjoying a whiskey flight with friends in a more casual setting, the tasting might be quicker, lasting around an hour or so. This relaxed pace allows for personal conversations and a leisurely exploration of different whiskies without a structured program.

What is a whiskey tasting glass called?

The glass typically used for whiskey tastings is called a Glencairn glass. It is designed to enhance the aroma and flavor of the whiskey.

The Glencairn glass, recognised for its wide bowl and tapered mouth, focuses the whiskey's aromatics, providing a richer tasting experience. Its design allows for thorough exploration of the whiskey’s color, consistency, and scent, making it a favorite among connoisseurs and casual drinkers alike. 

In more casual settings, other glasses such as the snifter, tulip glass, or even a simple rocks glass might be used. These alternatives still provide a good experience and allow you to appreciate the whiskey's aroma and flavour, however, they each offer a slightly different experience when compared to the Glencairn glass.

What is the proper way to taste whiskey?

The proper way to taste whiskey involves three main steps: looking, smelling, and tasting. Begin by observing the whiskey's color and clarity, then smell it to discern the aromas before taking a sip.

First, pour a small amount of whiskey into a glass and hold it up to the light to assess its color, which can provide clues about age and cask type. Swirl the whiskey gently to release its diverse aromas. When tasting, take a small sip and let it linger in your mouth, allowing the whiskey to coat your palate. This lets you fully appreciate the flavors and finish. Between tastes, it's helpful to cleanse your palate with water to maintain a clear sense of each whiskey's profile.

What to wear to a whiskey tasting:

When attending a whiskey tasting, opt for smart casual attire. Comfortable yet polished clothing will ensure you fit in at most venues, whether upscale or laid-back.

The choice of outfit can vary based on the venue's atmosphere and the event's formality. For more upscale locations, men might consider a blazer or a neat button-down shirt, while women could opt for a stylish yet comfortable dress or a smart ensemble. 

In more casual settings, a clean and tidy appearance with jeans and a nice top works well. Always consider the venue and the event type when choosing your attire to ensure a suitable and comfortable experience.

What to bring to a whiskey tasting:

For a whiskey tasting, bring a notepad and pen for notes, a water bottle for cleansing your palate, and, if required, your own tasting glass.

Bringing these items ensures a more engaged and organised tasting experience. The notepad and pen allow you to jot down your impressions and details about each whiskey, which can be helpful for remembering your favorites or discussing them later. A personal water bottle is essential for staying hydrated and cleansing your palate between different whiskies. Some tastings may also encourage you to bring your own glass, particularly if they are informal or in a private setting.

How to cleanse your palate for whiskey tasting:

To cleanse your palate during a whiskey tasting, use plain water or neutral foods like unsalted crackers between samples. This helps maintain the integrity of each whiskey's flavor profile.

Cleansing your palate is crucial to avoid flavor carry-over from one whiskey to another. Along with sipping water, you might also consider eating small pieces of apple or bread. These items are effective at neutralizing lingering flavors, ensuring that each whiskey can be tasted fresh. Avoid flavored or sugary foods that could skew your perception of the whiskies.

What to eat with whiskey tasting:

Select foods that complement whiskey's complexity, such as cheeses, dark chocolate, nuts, and smoked meats. These choices can enhance the flavors of both the food and the whiskey.

When planning what to eat with whiskey, aim for a balance that will highlight whiskey’s rich flavours without overpowering them. 

Here are some examples:

  • Cheeses like blue cheese or sharp cheddar pair well as they can stand up to the robustness of whiskey. 

  • Dark chocolate and nuts are excellent for bringing out the sweet and earthy tones in many whiskies. 

  • Smoked meats provide a hearty counterpart that meshes well with whiskey's smoky or peaty notes. 

The key is to choose foods that offer contrasting or complementary flavors to make the tasting a more rounded sensory experience.

What is a whiskey taster called?

A person who tastes and evaluates whiskey professionally is commonly referred to as a whiskey taster or professional as a “whiskey sommelier”.

Whiskey sommeliers, much like wine sommeliers, undergo specialised training to refine their palate and acquire in-depth knowledge of whiskey varieties, production methods, and history. 

They are experts at identifying the subtle differences in flavor, aroma, and color among different whiskeys. These professionals often work in the spirits industry, guiding distillery tours, hosting tasting events, or consulting for bars, hotels and restaurants to enhance their whiskey selections.

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Join the craft cask whiskey community!

Become a member of our whiskey community for free to get access to an exclusive range of curated content - from reviews of top drams, to unique whiskey tasting experiences, and insights into the latest industry trends—our mailing list content is a valuable source for whiskey enthusiasts looking to stay in tune with the world of whiskey. 

Don't miss out, join our community today.

Copyright © 2024 Craft Cask

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Join the craft cask whiskey community!

Become a member of our whiskey community for free to get access to an exclusive range of curated content - from reviews of top drams, to unique whiskey tasting experiences, and insights into the latest industry trends—our mailing list content is a valuable source for whiskey enthusiasts looking to stay in tune with the world of whiskey. 

Don't miss out, join our community today.

Whiskey by region

Ireland

Japan

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Production

Experiences

Events

Reviews

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News

Latest news

New releases

Market insights

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Copyright © 2024 Craft Cask