An Expert Explains Why You Should Never Start Off A Tasting With Peated Whiskey

A glass of peated scotch whisky on moss
A glass of peated scotch whisky on moss - Adilson Sochodolak/Shutterstock

You're putting together a whiskey tasting for your friends and placing the glasses out on the table, excited to finally get to try a few bottles you've had your eye on for a while. But now that everything is set up, where do you begin? There aren't too many rules for whiskey tastings, but that doesn't mean it's entirely arbitrary, either. To help us understand some of the dos and don'ts of whiskey tasting, we reached out to Anna Axster and Wendelin von Schroder, co-founders of the new distillery Lodestar Whiskey.

One thing Axster and von Schroder were clear about was being mindful of progression. "Peated whiskey can pack a smoky punch," they told us. "And you wouldn't want to overwhelm your palate at the beginning of a tasting." Peated whiskey is most often associated with scotch (though not exclusively), especially scotch from the island of Islay where we find distilleries like Laphroaig, whose 10-year single malt scotch is a notorious peat monster. If you enjoy the gruff bite of peat, it's a fantastic example of what the category can accomplish – but it's not for everyone.

Even if everyone involved in the tasting likes peat, you still shouldn't start the tasting off with a peated whiskey because you're going to throw off the progression. If you come in strong with a peat powerhouse, everything that comes after is going to come across as tame. If you start with the more subtle whiskeys on your list and work your way up, every bottle gets to shine.

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How To Properly Appreciate Peated Whiskeys

Five glasses of peated whiskey arranged for a tasting
Five glasses of peated whiskey arranged for a tasting - barmalini/Shutterstock

This is no reason to keep peated whiskey off your tasting list altogether, you just need to make sure you're ordering the drinks right to maximize the experience. It gets a little more complicated with a blind tasting but usually there's someone who knows which glass is what and you can have them order the drinks correctly. This tip, alongside other expert-approved ways to improve your whiskey tasting experience, will ensure that the tasting goes well.

You can also use the concept of progression in your whiskey tastings for moments when no peated whiskey is involved if you are already familiar with the whiskeys you've brought together. If you're worried that the peated whiskey is going to stand out too much from everything else even if you do place it toward the end, there are other options. If everyone likes peat, you can do a tasting of only peated whiskeys and compare them. This way, every bottle is fighting in the same weight class, so to speak.

Alternatively, you can enjoy peated whiskeys outside of the whiskey tasting format. "Personally, we prefer peated whiskeys in a cocktail," Anna Axster and Wendelin von Schroder said. "Smoke and spice are great additions to a well-balanced drink." One peated cocktail we love is an Old Fashioned with the bourbon swapped out for Islay scotch. Since an Old Fashioned is about as close to neat as a cocktail can get, you still get all the complexity of the whiskey while elevating it up a notch.

Read the original article on Tasting Table