Your Tasting at Home (Guide and Checkliste)

Many Whisky connoisseurs would like to organise a tasting for friends, acquaintances or co-workers. Of course, it should be a wonderful experience for everybody, but what makes a tasting good? Is it the Whiskies that are tasted, the guests or rather the atmosphere? Opinions differ. Surely it's a combination of many factors.

A fitting choice of Whiskies is essential for a good tasting, but there's more to it. In this article, we give you some advice on how to arrange your tasting so it becomes a real success. First, we need to know: What is the goal of your tasting? Do you want to provide the guests with Whiskies they like or have always wanted to try? Do you even want to impress them with special bottlings? Are they connoisseurs or beginners, who want to know something new about Whisky? Or do you just want to have a fun evening in pleasant company?

Preparations of a Whisky Tasting at Home

A prepared table for a Whisky tasting

The Location

The choice of location should play a crucial role in your plans. You need time and a relaxed atmosphere in order to taste a Whisky thoroughly. Don't choose a loud bar, but rather your own living room, for example. If you want to taste several Whiskies professionally, you need a large table so you have enough space for glasses, water, notepads etc.

Tasting Glasses and Additional Accessory

This leads us to the next point, the right equipment. Depending on the kind of tasting you want to hold, you need more or less equipment. First of all you need enough appropriate glasses for tasting. A Whisky glass should be narrow at the top so it can hold the aroma of the Whisky and the precious smell doesn't evaporate quickly. It doesn't matter whether the glass has a stem or just a short foot. As a rule of thumb, the glasses shouldn't be too large for light Whiskies. A strong, peated Whisky, however, can better develop its full strength in a larger glass. If you want to find out more about the right glass, you can find a great video here.

Glasses for a Whisky tasting

Important Part of a Tasting at Home: Water

Please make sure that you have a new glass for each Whisky or that you at least provide enough water to rinse the glasses. A big sip of water between two Whiskies is good for everybody. It's important that there are no leftovers of the previous Whisky in the glass. This would distort the taste of the following Whisky.

But water can be also used for diluting the Whisky. Especially when you sample Whiskies with cask strength, a few drops of water will bring it to a more pleasant strength for drinking. Small water jugs or pipettes are proven to be useful for dispensing.

You should only offer still water that contains few minerals and therefore has little taste of its own, for example, Volvic or Evian. In some areas, the local tap water is also well-suited. This article explains the influence of water on the taste of Whisky.

Additional Equipment Whisky Tasting

Information for Participants and a Checklist

When you invite beginners, you should tell them not to show up with an empty stomach. On the other hand, it is not advisable to eat directly before the tasting. Especially spicy food distorts the taste buds in your mouth. For the same reason, we don't recommend serving chocolate, cookies or cheese with your Whisky. The intense flavours of the beverages have a major effect on your perception of the Whisky. Of course, you can do special tastings where you use this taste distortion to see what kind of effect chocolate has on your Whisky.


  • right location (calm surrounding)
  • enough Whisky glasses (estimate: number of guests times the number of Whiskies)
  • prepare the selection of Whiskies (buy or order)
  • water (for dilution and drinking)
  • glasses and jugs for water
  • possible pipettes (for dilution)
  • notepads and pens (to note impressions)

The full Checklist

The complete Checklist for the perfect tasting at home.

Download for free:

Checklist Tasting at Home

Additional Equipment

There is a lot that you can do with your tasting if you have the right equipment. Here are a few ideas for you. Have you ever tried tasting your Whisky from a traditional quaich? It may not be very comfortable, but it is very exquisite. There are also a lot of different glasses to choose from. For example, you can serve your Whisky in wobbly tumblers or in dark glasses to hide the colour of the Whisky. The dark glasses are especially interesting when you do blind tastings so your guests can purely focus on the taste. Also very helpful are the tasting pads with numbering on them. This helps the guests to sort the Whiskies to the notes they made. Alternatively, you can number all the glasses. It is also very popular to serve small sample bottles to your guests so they can take the experience home. Most of the time your guests will not want to try too many Whiskies to not get too affected by the alcohol.

Tasting pad for Whisky tasting

The Selection of Whiskies for the Tasting

The selection of the Whiskies for a tasting is probably the hardest part. If you taste Whiskies you already have at home, it is simple. But if you have to buy them, we advise you to keep them between three and six different ones. Humans can not taste more than that with good focus. Even our sense of taste is exhausted after a few Whiskies and we no longer taste a difference. It is better to sample fewer Whiskies, but thoroughly. You should also inform your guests about this.

Whiskies for Beginner Tastings

If you hold a tasting for inexperienced beginners, provide the standard bottlings of the popular distilleries. Don't choose too complicated and rare Whiskies. Beginners can't appreciate their taste (and their value) yet. Besides, it would be convenient if the Whiskies were still available for purchase, so the guests that acquired a taste for Whisky can buy these bottles afterwards.

If you want to give your guests an overview of the aroma and flavour range of Whisky, choose one mild, one strong, one sherried and one peated Whisky. If you want the range to be even broader, we would suggest adding an Irish Whiskey, an American Bourbon or a Whisky Liqueur. It can also be interesting to taste a cheap, popular Blended Whisky from the supermarket beside high-quality Single Malts. The difference in taste will be a big surprise.

Whiskies for a Beginner Tasting

Whiskies for Experts Tastings & Different Themes

For an expert tasting, there are many options. There's no right or wrong choice of Whiskies. The point of the tasting is to examine the Whisky intensely. You can give your tasting a motto, for example, Islay Whiskies, Sherry or Wine cask matured Whiskies etc. Or you can simply choose new, unknown bottlings. You can also have a really interesting evening if each friend brings a bottle and you get a diverse range of Whiskies. However, the Whiskies don't always have to be as different as possible. When the Whiskies are quite similar to each other, you have to try hard to detect the subtle nuances. Even for experienced connoisseurs, this is a welcome challenge.

Whiskies for an Expert Tasting

Tasting Order of the Whiskies

Order by Taste, Peat Level and Alcohol Strength

We are often asked for the right tasting order. In general, you should start with lighter, milder Whiskies. The taste buds in the nose and on the palate are still unaffected and can better detect subtle aromas. Then proceed to stronger Whiskies, for example, Whiskies matured in a Sherry cask. Heavily peated Whiskies should be served towards the end. Their aroma often still lingers in the mouth long after the tasting and affects everything you try afterwards. The same can be applied to the alcohol strength, where the order is from low to high.

The Sampling of a Whisky at a Tasting

Let's get to the day of the tasting itself. If you like to pour the samples in advance, make sure to cover the glasses. Otherwise, the aromas of the Whiskies would evaporate early. It's better to pour the Whiskies just right before the start.

The actual sampling is not just drinking the Whisky. At first, the Whisky should be evaluated for its appearance. Which colour does it have? Is the texture more oily or liquid? Those properties can give a first hint about the possible taste. But do not depend on the colour too much: oftentimes the producers add caramel to darken the colour. Then the aroma of the Whisky is smelled. Take several whiffs over the glass, with breaks in between. With every whiff a new nuance can be discovered in the smell. After this, we come to the main part, the actual taste. It is best to take small sips and let them spread in your mouth. Our tongue has different ‘taste areas’ where it tastes different nuances. To experience all aromas, the sip has to be spread all over the tongue. You can take several sips as well, to better experience it. Also, a part of the tasting is the finish. What aroma stays on the tongue? How does it change?

Summarized, there are roughly these four parts:

  • look
  • aroma
  • taste
  • finish

Give your guests enough time. Each of them should gain their own impression first. Then you can help the beginners with hints about which aromas can be found in the Whisky and exchange your opinions. If you want to give your tasting a professional character, provide notepads so each guest can take notes on their samples.

It is also informative if you can tell something about the background of the bottlings or – for beginners – about Whisky in general. You'll find plenty of information on our website. For beginners and experts alike, tasting previously unknown Whiskies is always exciting. This can be done in various ways. One interesting option is to reveal which Whiskies are served, but not which Whisky is in which glass. The more similar the Whiskies are to each other, the more difficult it gets.

The Most Important Part of a Tasting at Home: The Fun

Last but not least our advice is to approach the tasting in a relaxed way. Don't put yourself under pressure and don't expect everything to go as planned. If you enjoy yourself, it will rub off on your guests and you will experience a great tasting.

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