One of the things I think I would really enjoy doing is hosting a scotch tasting party. Where I'm from, there are the occasional wine-tasting parties that bring like-minded individuals with similar passion together for an evening of indulgence. Such an event not only creates a form of camaraderie with other enthusiast, it can also help to further develop and broaden your knowledge on the alcohol.
A scotch tasting event combines sophisication and relation, the very traits which the drink itself represents. It is a toast to civilization.
When throwing a scotch tasting event, it is important to know your audience: are they novices or experts? Cater to them and serve scotch that will capture their interest. For instance, for beginners, consider something that is higher on drinkability, with a wider range of taste profiles, which will allow them to experiment and discover what type of scotch they like. For the more seasoned scotch drinkers, it would be better to narrow the choices and focus on a more specific region (e.g. Islay) or taste.
Unlike wine, scotch tastings should be limited to no more than 4 - 6 choices. Why? Firstly, scotch is alot stronger than wine proportionally. You wouldn't want your guests to be passed out drunk at the end of the session. In addition, the palate can become overwhelmed due to the strength of the scotch itself.
Another consideration to have when hosting a scotch tasting is what type of glass to use. In my previous post, I explained the differences between the glasses most commonly used. Although it is certainly fine to use any glass for personal enjoyment, it is more appropriate to use a "nosing glass" in a scotch-tasting event. The tulip-shaped glass can help guests to better identify and appreciate the flavors and aromas of the scotch, and it adds another touch of sophisication to the party.
Next, and quite importantly, is what scotches to offer? Most hosts of scotch tastings stick with single malts, as they tend to have a more distinct and unique character, taste and smell. These differences are more muddled in a blended scotch. As to which sinle malt scotch to use, well, this goes back to the earlier passage on what your audience is. Serve accordingly to what the majority prefers. You can either serve one from each of the five scotch regions, or you can focus on a particular region and sample several scotches from different distillery.
In addition to the scotch and the glasses, a pitcher of filtered water should also be available. Most experts agree that adding a few drops of water can really bring out the flavors and aromas in the scotch. Ice, however, is not neccessary, as true scotch enthusiast will never consider adding ice to their alcohol.
Finally, a pad of paper and pen should be provided to each taster for making notes on what they did and not like about each bottle. Consider handing out pre-printed sheets with areas to write in the label of the bottle, general thoughts, and taste categories (age, body, color, palette, smell and finish).
Many hosts also have food available at the tasting, being careful not to choose food that will clash with the Scotch. Some suggestions are sharp or mild cheeses, unflavored crackers, dark chocolate, and various fruits.
The nice thing about scotch tastings is that you can try out very expensive bottles that you normally would not buy. Also, if you live in a big enough city, you can invite one of the main scotch companies to bring one of their reps or ambassadors to host the tasting for you. This way, you can get a specialist present to provide background information and answer any questions.
I hope this post will encourage readers to consider trying out and attend a local scotch tasting party. Who knows, you may just discover a bottle of scotch you like that you would have never come across by yourself. Till the next time, you keep it classy SimplyScotches readers.