“You’ve gotta try this bourbon. You’ve gotta try this rye. You’ve gotta try…” If you’re a whiskey fan (or a whisky fan), this might sound a heck of a lot like you and your friends. And with the endless variety of whiskeys from around the world, it seems like you could explore a new one every day and never run out. (Are those angels singing?)
Why not get these friends together for a whiskey tasting? Hosting is simple, fun and enlightening. You’ll get to try new whiskeys and even learn a thing or…212. That’s the number of detectable flavors in Woodford Reserve. Yes, 212!
First, and obviously most important, you need to pick your whiskeys. Swing by your local retailer or, even better, have a range of these favorites delivered right to your door. We recommend:
- Woodford Reserve®
- Woodford Reserve Double Oaked®
- Jack Daniel’s® Tennessee Whiskey
- Jack Daniel’s® Gentleman Jack®
- Jack Daniel’s® Single Barrel Select
- Old Forester® 86 Proof
Next, download these tasting wheels, tasting notes and food pairing guides. They’ll give you a more detailed step-by-step and even cue certain flavors that you didn’t know you were already picking up. “Wait, is that banana?”
Sorry, save the plastic cups for another day. Shape makes a difference when tasting whiskey. Your best bet? Tapered glassware made specifically for whiskey. The design funnels aromas and helps you note complex flavors. No special glassware? Rocks glasses or small white wine glasses work. If you don’t have one for each whiskey, thoroughly rinse your tasting glass between tastings. Avoid shot glasses.
Small plates are perfect; ideally, one for each bourbon. Arrange cheese and chocolate in a circle on the plate, with the cheese first. You’ll sample clockwise.
Different cheeses, from hard and sharp to soft and mild, accentuate certain characteristics of whiskey. For example, go with Gouda, aged cheddar and Parmesan for the Woodford Reserve and mild cheddar, swiss and Monterey Jack for Old Forester.
Cacao percentage in chocolate highlights different flavors in whiskey. Higher = a more bitter and less sweet chocolate. Always use high-quality chocolate (not from the checkout area). Use dark chocolate (75–85% cacao) for both Woodford Reserve and milk chocolate (up to 50% cacao) for Old Forester.
Have cool or room temperature water ready to cleanse your palate between tastings. And, more important, plenty to stay hydrated.