A “blind” whiskey tasting can have a variety of goals, from simply having fun, to information leading to serious business decisions. Such an endeavor usually involves a small group of people with varying experience with whiskey, each offering honest opinions about a limited number of samples. Names or labels of the samples are hidden from the participants. Amount of liquid for each sample is usually limited to about one-quarter of an ounce. Each person records personal findings on a guide, requesting ratings on flavor (aroma and taste), mouth feel, color, comparison to a familiar brand, price willing to pay, and other criteria. Participants are reminded that there are no wrong answers, and that honest objectivity is paramount.
A blind tasting was recently held in Las Vegas, where the objective was to gather input on a new whiskey being considered for import. The whiskey under consideration was one of four samples to be evaluated by the panel. How did each sample rank, relative to aroma, taste, overall appeal? What should the price point be? Which was preferable, Sample 1 or 2, 3 or 4 etc.?
For this particular event, a second tasting was held, after a cleansing hors d’oeuvre break. This time just one sample (presumably the candidate for import, but really unknown) was to be tasted. How did it compare with other whiskies currently on the market? Did it taste like an Irish whiskey or a Scotch whisky? Was it a good cocktail whiskey, or should it be enjoyed without mixing with other ingredients? What should the price point be? Was the liquid overall appealing or off-putting? And, of course, “Anything else you would like to add?”
At the conclusion of Part One of the experience, a clear trend developed among the samples. Pointed comments like “Disagreeable nose”, “I wouldn’t order it”, “Low end”, “Good nose and taste”, I like this one”, “Beautiful legs and color” obviously provided the organizer a direction for Part Two.
Revisiting just one of the samples, the panel was asked to focus comments on the aesthetic aspects of the sample: color, viscosity, nose, palate, and finish. “Great legs”, “Pleasantly floral and fresh”, “Robust, warm flavor”, “Very smooth with velvety mouth feel” and “This is a nice sipping whiskey” were among the opinions.
The importance of proper glassware for whiskey evaluation was explained by the organizer. A relatively new tasting glass was used, called NEAT. An acronym for “naturally engineered aroma technology”, the glass’s dimensions, shape and size eliminated harsh ethanol vapors, allowing the essence of the whiskies to be discerned. The effect was amazing, when compared with a traditional whiskey glass.