My first whiskey tasting event

Fun and lessons learned

Posted by christoc on February 12, 2020

I’ve been threatening for months that I was going to have a whiskey tasting event, this past Friday I finally did it. This post contains an overview of how I planned, how the event went and what lessons learned for future events.

Planning

The biggest hurdle to this event was just picking a date, for months I haven’t been able to get a date on the calendar, so in late January I threw one up (February 7th) and created a private Facebook event with info. I then sent the invite out to a small group of friends, some of which I had been talking about the event with for months.

In the Facebook I included a list of various bottles that I had acquired for the purpose of drinking over the past year, including selections of Jack Daniel’s, and non Jack Daniel’s bottles. I also requested that everyone bring an unopened bottle of their own, an if they felt like leaving it afterward they could. I ended up extending the invites out to 11 people, 8 of whom were able to make it.

As I neared the date I started prepping some things.

  1. I cleaned all my whiskey glasses, and wine glasses (not for use, but because they hadn’t been washed in…. years)
  2. I purchased some new tasting glasses, 8 of them, shaped like Glencairn glasses, but not the brand.
  3. I did a little reading on how best to host a whiskey tasting. (Google it)
  4. I posted a link to an article about “infinity” bottles, or the idea of filling up a decanter with a variety of different whiskeys, either when a bottle is opened, or as a bottle nears it’s completion. I suggested everyone bring a decanter and we could see about filling them up.
  5. I changed my mind about everyone bringing a decanter, and decided that I was going to buy some moonshine bottles and personalize them for the event (see the photos below, I think they turned out great).
  6. Made a selection of ice for the event, for anyone who wanted ice in their glasses (not everyone did).

At 5pm that evening I headed to the local grocery store, hoping to score some snacks, and hoping to score some whiskey for the night. In the local Bourbon Facebook group there were substantiated rumors that you could find some Weller’s Reserve and Eagle Rare at the Dierberg’s around town, so I headed to the Wildwood location with hopes of finding one or both. I was able to fill up the cart with snacks, and a bottle of the Dierberg’s Single Barrel selection of the Eagle Rare.

Final prep for the night of including getting the dining room table extended and bringing extra chairs up from the basement. I also picked up some crackers and pizza bites to warm up, in case anyone was hungry for something. The pizza bites didn’t last an hour.


Event Experience

Come the night of I was ready about an hour before the scheduled start time, so I sat down to read my copy of The Whiskey Advocate that mysteriously showed up in my mailbox a week ago. When the first guests showed up we took a seat in the kitchen and caught up a bit waiting for the rest of the crew to arrive.

As everyone showed up, all bringing a bottle of their choice, I gave a tour of the basement where I keep my “undrinkables”, my Jack Daniel’s collection. From there we took our seats at the dining room table, the location for the tasting, and I passed out the custom decanters.

Everyone got to choose a glass from the table, and then I tried to determine what we would start with. My original list on the invite had probably 12 different bottles of mine that I wanted to use, but I quickly realized that wasn’t going to be realistic, so we started with the guest provided bottles and mixed in 4 or 5 of mine throughout the night.

Everyone got a “dram”, a small pour, supposed to be 3/4 of an OZ, but unmeasured on my pours. We went in the following order:

  1. Eagle Rare (90 Proof)
  2. Knob Creek Smoked Maple (90 proof)
  3. Tamdhu Scotch (96 Proof)
  4. New Riff Kentucky Straight Rye Bottled In Bond (100 proof)
  5. Breckenridge Bourbon Whiskey (86 proof)
  6. Sons of Erin Irish Whiskey (92 Proof)
  7. Woodford Reserve (90.4 Proof)
  8. Whistle Pig Farmstock Rye (86 Proof)
  9. Blanton’s (93 Proof)
  10. Jack Daniel’s Heritage Barrel 2019 (100 Proof)
  11. Jack Daniel’s No. 27 Gold (80 proof)
  12. George Dickel Bottled in Bond (100 proof)


Outside of the tasting a few of us tried Bruichladdich The Classic Laddie, a scottish barley, which we mostly immediately regretted.

We had quite the variety of things to choose from on our first tasting. In the future we’ll have to decide if we want to try that many in one go again or not. Overall consensus was that the Blanton’s was the best. After that it was mixed, but I think the Jack Daniel’s No. 27 Gold was extra smooth and drinkable. Definitely glad we cracked that one open.

My buddy who brought the Whistle Pig Farmstock Rye brought me another bottle, we didn't open it, but I did get to keep it. It is a 100 Proof bottle of The Legendary Hatfield & McCoy Family Brand Whiskey. I spent a few minutes looking online, and no proof of this bottle's existance can be found (you can find the 80 proof version, but I don't think 100 proof ever went to retail), how cool is that?

Lessons Learned

One, have fun. This was a great damn time. Invite some good friends, and invite some people you might not know that well. If you can get everyone to bring/leave a bottle, you can build up your collection! Be prepared, there was no way I had enough glasses for 9 people to try 12 different drinks. What we ended up doing was putting a bowl on each end of the table, and a pitcher of water. Rinsing the glasses out in between drams. This worked out pretty well, though I’m sure purists might cringe at the idea.

Doing an infinite bottle/decanter might not make sense at a tasting like this, maybe that comes with some sort of a bring a bottle/trade pours type of thing.

If I do this again in the future, no, not if, WHEN I do this again in the future, I will have to come up with another parting gift for everyone who attends.

I am already trying to figure out when the next one is, likely in April 2020.

Thinking I’ve got enough special edition Jack Daniel’s bottles we can crack open (in my drinkable selection) that we might just do a Night Dedicated To Jack Daniels.