Just in time for the Kentucky Derby Brandy Rand gave us a ladies (and a few men) a lesson in the art of whiskey tasting at the ultra classy Farmount Copley Plaza. Now, I have been to more than a few liquor tastings #nojudgement, but very few that have focused on the specific tastes of women.
First we started off with a full drink of Basil Hayden, a high rye rum, that had a bit of simple syrup in it and of course a sprig of basil to bring out the vanilla and honey flavors of the whiskey.
After piling our plates with tasty treats of cheeses, breads and dried fruit, we were ready to delve into the world of whiskey. According to Rand women are biologically superior tasters due to evolution. Women chose their mates by sense of smell, and as the “gatherers” they had to use their sense of smell to detect poisonous berries and other fruit.
In addition to biology, we learned about the history of whiskey. One of the most surprising to me of which was that whiskey was the American drink of choice until the 1960’s when vodka came on the scene as the drink that didn’t make you smell like alcohol. The key to whiskey is the “mash bill” aka the recipe of the ratio of grains barley (malt), corn, and wheat. The mash bill also includes the yeast – which can be passed down from generation to generation as well as the oak barrels the whiskey is put in – where the barrels come from, how long they are aged, if they are smoked etc.
For each tasting we were to come up with what we felt the whiskey tasted. To get our imaginations going we were shown a flavor wheel that is used in a lot of whiskey classification tastings.
When you’re tasting, you should do the Smell, Sip, Savor. An important trick I learned to tasting whiskey is to not try and deeply sniff it like wine, as it will burn your sensory glands; instead, you should wave it under your nose to get the tone and make sure that you let the whiskey cover your whole tongue, not just the tip.
We started off with classic flavors with an Irish whiskey Tyroconnell. Tyroconnell is a single malt whiskey. To me, it was cinnamon and spicey with a bit of wood and a bit of olive.
Next stop wast to Scotland with the Auchentoshan American Oak. Now, in order to be called scotch it has to come from Scotland and be 100% barley. The taste relies heavily on which region it came from. The type was buttery with a caramel coat with fruit tones.
For our next tasting we went to the orient, Japan, which is not exactly known for their whiskey, but because they are new to whiskey making there aren’t as many rules and restrictions on how they ferment. The kind we tasted was the Yamazaki 12. For me, it had a very bright taste, of apples, cherries and young wood.
Then it was time to go to classic American brands, of bourbon. Now bourbon is American whiskey and 95% of it is made in Kentucky. In order to be considered bourbon, it has to be at least 70% corn. Now there is no other more American whiskey – arguably – than Maker’s Mark. The name and the wax bottle actually was created by a woman, Marjorie Samuels. They are also the few brands that rotate their barrels which is a pretty expensive process. This had the taste of caramel, honey, vanilla, licorice and buttery toast. We also got to salute the other women who are blazing trails in the distillery business.
For our last taste was the Knobb Creek 100 proof – might as well go out with a bang – which is a rye whiskey that is ideal for cocktail mixing. It has much lighter tones, almost cotton-like with a hint of caramel. I felt like this was the “girliest” of the bunch for those looking to get into whiskey, this might be your starter brand.
I had a great time learning about and tasting the whiskeys and with the goodie bag we got, I have no excuse not to step my whiskey game up.
Thanks for invite Chris and Jill!