(A quick aside for this post, I will not be giving full tasting notes on the bottles sampled. This is in part because the evening was such a social success,that as much as I tried, I could not break away from the conversation and picture taking…That being said,please enjoy my musings on hosting my first tasting)
Hosting my first tasting was a wonderful endeavor not however without trepidation. Things to consider when you will be hosting, that are not initially about the expressions. Things that go with whisky,well food is the obvious and tasty answer. But what kind of food is appropriate and conducive to compliment the star of the night.
I chose to make a flank steak with a cinnamon and cocoa rub; slow cooked for an hour and a half, making almost a brisket. The rub was meant as a compliment and highlight to the flavours of the Scotch, the sides were a mushroom medley and lightly salted rice balls. In addition my guests brought prosciutto and and brie. All this food had relatively light flavour profile. The idea behind the food to is to compliment not overpower the Scotch /whisky.
The next thing to consider and really is the function of the night…what should I chose as a good Scotch and the answer is is simple, there is no bad Scotch. But it helps to have a theme; geographic,flavour profile, age statement etc.
For this tasting I chose a “light” flavour profile; Balvinie Single barrel first fill 12 yr, Glenmorangie 18yr, Aberfeldy 12 yr. All relatively mild and delicious. My guests brought with them : Hakushu 12 yr, a Nikka and a Glenlivet 12 yr. All around more than enough whisky for the night. The Japanesse whisky was a good compliment to my offerings.
So we were set. We had our food, whisky, glasses and a passion for taking pictures of food and drink. We plated, poured and instagramed. The tasting was on.
We started with what I thought would be the lightest fare, the Balvinie Single Barrel First Fill. It presented as a light but complex first tasting, with our paletes fresh people starting proclaiming their results. Some found it plain and unremarkable, lacking a boldness they found in there particular favorite. I tried to delve deeper into its profile and was able to pick up on an early evergreen note in the nose that mellowed to a honey oak in the palate, and left with a long finish.
Quietly the attention shifted from the tasting to the picture taking and this was a great way to give time to wash out the tasting glasses and ready them for the next expression.
The Hakushu 12yr was a new bottle to me and I was looking forward to it giving it the time give it a caring evaluation. The nose was a classic fresh and floral Japanese crispness with a hint of smokiness that was pointed out to me by the owner of the of the bottle; and indeed that hint of smokiness was something that I had glossed over. This is the fun part of tasting with others, you’re exposed to other people’s palate as well. As I tried to concentrate on the finish of this whisky the attention in the room moved to how best backlight the a bottle that was being shot, the answer two cell phone flashlights. In the interim a small dram of the Nikka Taketsuru was poured while the photography continued. We simply enjoyed the Nikka and I did not take any notes (sorry).
At this point we were arriving at our fourth dram and attention fatigue was setting in. Ideas for pictures were flattening and palates were starting to be over-saturated by similarity and it was getting late in the evening, So finally we poured the the Glenlivet 12yr and to my surprise it had a strong balanced presence, matching smoothness with an assertive mouthfeel. I stood up to the long night of tasting and to me deserves a revisit. As did the others but thanks to the primary/recency effect this is what stood out in my mind these days latter as I write (hence, always take notes).
The tasting was a resounding social success, whisky was had, people had new experiences, conversations and photography were had.
I can’t thank my friends enough for their participation in my first tasting. I have learnt much and hope to do this again. I might change a few things but not the spirit of the night. That we got spot on.
-I don’t offer a master class, I’m just a friend that like whisky maybe a little more than you-