Whisk(e)y How To

How to Host Killer Whiskey Tastings, Part One: The Guest(s) of Honor


You’ve been learning about whiskey. You’ve gone through the trouble and expense of amassing a small whiskey collection. Your enthusiasm and excitement grow with each new bottle and bit of knowledge. You’re at the point where you want to share your whiskey and know-how with others. You want to host a whiskey tasting. You want, more than anything, for your guests to enjoy themselves. Right? Right. How do you do that?

How do you host amazing whiskey tastings?

That’s the question we’re going to answer in this series. Eventually we’ll cover things like glassware, tasting mats, food pairings, music, lighting, tasting sheets, and more. To start, though, we’re going to talk about two questions that should guide every step in planning and execution. If you start with these questions as your foundation, then every tasting you build on them will turn out wildly successful. Let’s look at the first question.

Who are my guests of honor?

Another way of asking this is: Who gets the spotlight at your tasting? Who is going to be featured?

I’ll tell you right now, I’m not trying to be clever or cute and make you think that the whiskey is the guest of honor. While it’s fun to personify inanimate objects, that’s not what we’re doing today.

Your guests of honor should be your guests. And when your guests are truly the guests of honor then they’re going to have a good time. If you make the tasting about you and how much you know about whiskey, then I’m sure you’ll have a good time. I can’t say the same for your guests, though. So make the tasting about them and they’ll love you for it.

Who are you inviting? Put their names down on a list. Got your list? Ok, now it’s time for the second question.

How can I make my guests feel special?

The answer to this question will dictate how you proceed with all the details of a tasting. Details like glassware, tasting mats, food pairings, music, lighting, tasting sheets, etc. Go through your guest list and think about each person. Do they even drink? Are they whiskey drinkers? If so, what kind of whiskey drinkers are they? What kind of food do they like? How far will they have to travel? What kind of music do they like or not like?  Does everyone on your list get along? How much time will they have? And so on.

We’re going to go give you helpful tips for each of those details in future articles. For now, answer the questions: Who are my guests of honor? How can I make them feel special?

Armed with only that you’ll soon become known for hosting the best whiskey tastings around!

— Zac Smith