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Cigar Tip: Host a Whiskey Tasting

9 Dec 2014

Tasting multiple cigars in a sitting can be tricky. An entire cigar needs to smoked for it to be properly judged, but smoking full cigars one after another can overwhelm your palate.

Most cigar tastings, to the extent they aren’t just a single cigar, will consist of several specially made mini pure grade cigars (made entirely of one type of tobacco). This is a valuable educational experience, but what you taste isn’t actually a finished cigar.


Whiskeys, on the other hand, are perfect for tasting side by side. Pick two whiskeys, or five, or a dozen, and get to it. Observe the color, take in the nose, experience the taste (on the palate and the finish), and keep notes so you can come back to them later. While the basics aren’t hard to understand, here are a few tips to improve your whiskey tastings:

Select the right whiskeys – It sounds obvious, but it’s also crucial. Tastings are great because you can compare and contrast, so focus on a selection with both similarities and differences. Here are just a few suggestions: wheated bourbons, Indiana-distilled ryes, barrel-proof bourbons, sherry cask-aged single malts, etc. In the photo above, I decided to taste the first three Orphan Barrel bourbons, all of which are at least 20 years old.

Proper glassware – I’m a big fan of Glencairn whiskey glasses, which were specially designed for whiskey tasting. You don’t have to go that route, but tasting from similar glasses is important because the shape will impact what you pick up. Along those lines, shot glasses or big tumblers are poor choices, but a medium or small wine glass can work well.

Keep your palate fresh – Much like cigar tasting, I like to use club soda or sparkling mineral water to cleanse the palate. You’ll also want some spring water on hand. No ice is allowed (it dulls your taste). Try and taste it all neat first, then add a drop or two of water at a time to see how that impacts flavor. For a food to help keep your palate fresh, keep some bread or lightly salted crackers on hand.

Bring friends  – Of course, drinking with good friends is fun, but there are more reasons why this is preferable. First, you can compare notes. Second, with the help of friends, all but one person can taste blind. Because that’s the real test: Do you enjoy a particular whiskey even without knowing what it is and what it costs?

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

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