A Scotch tasting is a sophisticated, relaxing event to host, traits which the drink itself represents. David Daiches, a Scottish scholar and literary critic, once wrote, "The proper drinking of Scotch whiskey is more than indulgence, it is a toast to civilization." Perhaps no other distilled spirit has as many different tastes and nuances as Scotch. When considering how to host a Scotch tasting party, the focus should be on providing the guests a good assortment of Scotches with a variety of flavor profiles.
Unlike wine, Scotch tastings should be limited to no more than 5 or 6 choices. First, this is because Scotch is so much stronger than wine proportionally. A few ounces of Scotch pack a much bigger punch that a similar size portion of wine. In addition, the palate can become overwhelmed due to the strength of the Scotch itself.
The first consideration to be given when considering how to host a Scotch tasting is what type of glass to use. While any container could be used, the proper vessel to allow full enjoyment of the Scotch is what is known as a "nosing glass." This will be a tulip-shaped glass that allows the aromas to develop and remain in the glass.
Next is what Scotches to offer. While there are excellent blended scotches, most hosts of Scotch tastings stick with single malts for the majority of the selection. The main reason for choosing single malts is that each of the ones chosen will have a unique character, taste, and to a lesser extent, smell. These differences are more muddled in a blend. As to which single malt Scotches to use, the host should either rely on their own preferences, consult with friends, or ask for advice from the liquor store where the Scotches are purchased. A simple way to plan a tasting is to choose one from each of the five Scotch regions. Speyside is probably the most famous region for Scotches since it produces complex flavors. Cambellton, The Isle of Islay, The Highlands, and The Lowlands are the other four regions, each of which produces Scotches with their own unique character.
In addition to the Scotch and the glasses, a pitcher of filtered water should also be available. Most Scotch experts agree that a few drops of water bring out the best flavors and aromas in the Scotch. It is best to not have ice available, since it waters down the liquor and takes away from the flavor.
Many hosts also have food available at the tasting, being careful not to choose food that will clash with the Scotch. Some suggestions are sharp or mild cheeses, unflavored crackers, dark chocolate, and various fruits.
Finally, a pad of paper and a pen should be provided to each taster for making notes on what they did and did not like about each bottle. If you choose to do pre-printed sheets, label each bottle and put categories for the tasters to rate. These categories would include age, body, color, palette, smell, and finish. You can also leave another blank for general thoughts.