Fine libations should never be enjoyed alone. They deserve more than just a moment of quiet solitary reflection. Even though there are many choices, when you ask connoisseurs of liquor, some of the most intriguing flavor profiles can be found in whiskeys. It is enjoyed around the world and distilled in many different nations, so why can’t we enjoy the art and culture of distilleries with friends across the world wide web?
Throwing a virtual tasting party is not only a great way to discover new batches and brands, but it’s also a way to reconnect with friends who we can’t be with in person. With everything in our lives in flux, here are six simple steps to help create the perfect virtual whiskey tasting.
Step One: The Connection
Survey your list of friends and carefully select your mates. Then ask the group which online meeting program most of you are familiar with. Whether it’s Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype, Facetime, or GoToMeeting, it’s best if everyone has at least had a test run or two on the app, because the team’s tech-savviness will fade more and more with each sip. We recommend using your app’s grid format of viewing so everyone is visible, since you’ll want to see each person’s first reaction to each spirit.
Step Two: Choose Your Constant
Before you can venture into the rolling hills of Scotland or the castles of Ireland, your group must first pick a whiskey everyone knows. Choose one whose flavors are familiar to most people in the group. This way your team has an equal starting point for exploring. Also, though it may seem a little unnecessary, attempt to pick the same glassware. While an old-fashioned glass may be the traditional way to drink whiskey, many suggest a snifter or Glencairn when sampling. These allow for better airflow and smaller sips adding to the flavor of your liquor.
Step Three: Selecting Your Whiskeys
Though there are many types, there are really nine styles of whiskey you need to try in order to say you have tasted the best that whiskey has to offer. These are Irish Whiskey, Scotch Whisky, Tennessee Whiskey, Canadian Whisky, Bourbon Whiskey, Japanese Whisky, Rye Whiskey, Single Malt, and Blended Whiskey. These types differ widely in barrel types, distillation processes, and aging lengths. Not all of your friends need to have access to all the same whiskeys, but it does help if some of the same brands are shared. That way you can find if your drinking companions share the same opinions on the difference between a sweet Tennessee sip and the lighter sampling out of Tokyo.
Step Four: Proper Tasting Process
One at a time, each drinking partner should take turns sipping their selection. Similar to wine tasting, whiskey needs to breathe. Swirling your snifter to allow the flavors to become oxygenated will give the taster a wider flavor profile. Also, remember to take very small sips while sucking good amounts of air into your mouth simultaneously. If you give the proper time to your whiskey of choice you will notice the notes of wood, smoke, and sugar that accompany your selection.
Each person in your virtual call can take turns trying their spirit. Then, have your friends share out loud their observations and opinions on the taste. Take notes as each person speaks. You may discover new brands that have more of your favorite flavor notes than the whiskey you are currently ordering at bars.
Step Five: Pairing With Food
No virtual party should be without snacks. In this case, choosing a variety of food pairings can bring a whole new level of enjoyment to your whiskey tasting party. But which foods pair well with whiskey?
Ask a fan of Scottish whiskey and they will tell you that you can’t fully enjoy Scotch without dark chocolate. The slightly bittersweet taste of dark chocolate can bring out the sweetness of your Scotch Whiskey or bourbon. Also, salted milk confections can highlight the flavors of rye or malt whiskeys. Did you select a fruit-based whiskey? Then perhaps an orange-flavored chocolate tab may accentuate the citrus in your Kentucky Bourbon. Take a look at our selection of chocolate gifts so you’ll have something sweet to go with your tasting.
Though you may traditionally imagine wines when you think of cheese pairings, experts say you may get more from your cows’ curds by combining it with whiskey rather than fermented grapes.
Cheese can share many flavors with cheese; nutty, smokey, fruity, and salty are shared notes between the two. Try smooth cow-based cheeses with your lighter whiskey selections to bring more depth to the liquor. Oak barrel whiskeys tend to pair nicely with goat cheese as well. FTD has a selection of charcuterie gift sets that include various cheeses that will surely pair well with your whiskeys.
It may not be your first instinct to bring land and sea together, connoisseurs of the nearly 530-year-old liquor would tell you the right scallop or shrimp will bring out the best in your beverage. Seafood pairs well with salty or spicy whiskey’s so smoked salmon goes nicely with single malts. If you have a medium-bodied whiskey, mackerel, or tilapia complement each other well. Lighter whiskeys play well with shrimp, crab, or mussels. Don’t be afraid to get inventive when it comes to these pairings. Fortune favors bold flavors.
Many can’t imagine enjoying Tennessee’s finest without a medium-rare steak. Fatty, salty meats tend to make the perfect pairing with liquors like rye and bourbon. Many people love the balance of fat with acidity in bold cask whiskey. Take a chance and try sweet flank steaks with Japanese Whiskey or bacon with blended malts. Your tongue will thank you.
After a few helpings of some of the foods on our list, it may seem you have no room for desserts. You don’t need a large helping of sweets to finish off your pairings. Carmel or sweet whiskeys pair well with apple pies or crumbles, while butter cookies join nicely with lighter flavored blends or single malts. Brownies, or other chocolate-based confections, will bring so much more out of your scotch whiskeys.
Step Six: Final Rankings & Ratings
Tabulate up your friends’ opinions. Create a scoring system between 1-10. Also, score on categories: Smoothness, Flavor, Creativity, Overall. Let the debate linger like a single malt in your mouths. Crown a winner amongst your friends for their thoughts and whiskey-based on score. Your winning whiskey can be the baseline for the next event, and your group’s winner can become the host of the next virtual tasting.
No matter what labels you choose or pairings you make, remember the true reason for the event is to reconnect with the moment and your friends. Virtual whiskey tasting events can be your opportunity to catch up face to face with people on the other side of the world, or, your next-door neighbor. Interested in hosting more virtual celebrations? Let FTD help! We have guides for hosting virtual Friendsgivings and much more!