Whisky Party Theme: Scotch Flavor Finder

Scotch whisky is highly regarded for its diversity of flavors and complex taste. In fact, it can be hard for newcomers to know where to begin, especially when it comes to divisive qualities like smoke. While any attempt at categorizing whiskies is subjective, this simple flavor finder will help guests discover which styles they enjoy most, whether they explore the range on offer or focus their tasting on a particular circle of flavor.

Make the team

Select a variety of single malt scotch whiskies that clearly demonstrate different dominant flavors (blended malts and blended scotch are fair game too, but tend to be less flavor-specific). Be sure to include whiskies with and without smoke, with and without sherry cask finish, and the like. It’s perfectly okay if you end up with multiple whiskies in one region of the diagram, but the more diversity, the better. You can be sure to cover the most ground by taking advice from our sample diagram and list of suggested whiskies.

Plot the single malt scotches at your party on a Venn diagram that helps your guests more easily identify flavors like fruit, smoke, and spice. (Photo by Jeff Harris)

Create your diagram

Draw your flavor-finder Venn diagram on poster board, whiteboard, or another surface. White chalk or paint on a chalkboard or reusable Chalkboard Poster Board ($2) gives this fun flavor lesson a scholarly feel. Or instead of a chalkboard, use a dark 24-inch tile from a home improvement store. You can create a three-dimensional display by placing your bottles directly on the diagram, or simply display it on the wall near your bar.

Not much of an artist? Create a digital diagram using simple, free software like Smart Draw or Lucid Chart. These are easy to display on a flat-screen TV and can also be shared directly with guests via G Suite, Microsoft Office, Slack, or a URL.

Plot your whiskies

Taste the whiskies before the party to confirm where to place each one on the flavor finder. Remember “dominant” is the key word, since many whiskies will display all three qualities to some degree. If you need assistance deciding where to place a whisky, the Whisky Advocate Buying Guide tasting notes offer helpful clues. Have fun and don’t fret about getting each bottle in the perfect spot. Guests may perceive other flavors or suggest placing a bottle differently; it’s all part of the fun.

Build the Bar

These suggestions can help you cover a good breadth of Scotch whisky flavors. However, you can use any whiskies you already have on hand, and there’s no need to fill every space.

Laphroaig 10 year old Cask Strength (93 points), Ardbeg 10 year old (92 points), Lagavulin 16 year old (93 points)

anCnoc Cutter (90 points), Highland Park 12 year old (90 points), Glenfiddich Fire and Cane (87 points)

Talisker 10 year old (90 points), BenRiach 10 year old Curiositas (87 points), Oban Bay Reserve (87 points)

Glenkinchie 12 year old (87 points), Glen Moray Elgin Classic (87 points), Auchentoshan 12 year old (87 points)

GlenDronach 15 year old (92 points), Macallan 12 year old Double Cask (90 points), Dalmore Port Wood Reserve (89 points)

Compass Box Spice Tree (91 points), Glenmorangie Original 10 year old (87 points), Glengoyne 15 year old (86 points)

Springbank 15 year old (92 points), Loch Lomond 18 year old (90 points), Balvenie Peat Week 14 year old 2003 vintage (87 points)

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