Minty at Home: Checking out Virtual Whiskey Tastings
I’ve been working from home since mid-March. That means my once “too busy” life came to a halt. I no longer was out every night at a new bar or checking out whisky tastings around town.
For a while I held out at drinking at home. It’s not something I really did in those Before Times. Mainly because I was out all the time. But I have always enjoyed cooking. And I found I actually enjoy making drinks at home– check out my posts on how to make drinks like juleps, Manhattans, martinis and more. Then you do it day after day and it’s not as fun anymore. I break up the monotony of cooking with take out so why not break up the cocktail making with virtual whisky tastings and other online booze events?
My local club is The Southern California Whiskey Club. They have done two tastings so far with more in the works. The tastings are conducted via Zoom, a now hugely popular video call program. Participants were mailed samples before the tastings.
I always have liked that SCWC provides a tasting mat. The samples were clearly labeled and it was great to follow along. Usually at tastings, I’m scribbling away and I treated this no differently. I took notes and appreciated the slide shows. I also enjoyed the speakers. It’s great we are able to have distillery folks without them having to go through the hassle of travel. I still want to meet everyone one day though when it’s safe to do so.
Pretty quickly, people were putting together great programs. A new one called Whiskey From Home took place on what would have been Derby day this year (it’s now postponed until September). The website was well thought out and included information on seminars and whiskies to get in preparation for the day. There were even cocktails so ingredient lists were provided.
I tried my best to get all the whiskies but buying several full sized bottles of bourbon was out of my budget. So I found a lot of them in miniature form. I did buy a full sized Wild Turkey 101 because I knew it’s very versatile and I’ll make drinks with it in the future.
I watched most of the WFH seminars live. I’m glad they were recorded so I could watch the ones I missed due to the time zone difference. I made myself tasting sheets for each session. There was talk for a rye focused WFH next. I hope it’s soon!
One of my favorite LA Cocktail community events is Art Beyond the Glass. I look forward to this every June and was sad we couldn’t have one this year. Instead, there was an online “sip-a-thon” where cocktails were pre-batched and sold. Pick-ups were at several bars around Los Angeles a few days before the online event. There were a total of 8 sets and I got half of them. Each set had 4 drinks. I knew I couldn’t drink 16 drinks in one day so I split them over a week or so.
The ABTG event lasted most of the day. Each team presented a skit and there was music and conversations in between. People followed along either on Twitch or Facebook live.
Then there was World Whisky Day. It’s an annual event and many brands had their own online celebration. I decided to take part of the Jameson one since I had a little bit left and wanted to make a drink to go along with the show.
I ended up splashing a little cranberry in my Dublin Mule. The host introduced the live music, a bartender making drinks from the distillery as well as the Jameson (Middleton) cooper. I loved hearing about the different casks they use for their whiskey.
I also joined tastings with Women Who Whiskey. WWW has chapters all over the world and I have done tasting with the local Los Angeles chapter as well as participated in online happy hours with the Long Beach chapter. LBC has great topics like Ask a Bartender and How to Read Liquor Bottle Labels. I have also seen that club partner with restaurants and bars to host tastings and happy hours. For instance, you get takeout/ delivery of food and drinks to go for a particular night and then hang out online with your fellow club members. I hope to join one of those or a more traditional whiskey tasting soon.
In the meantime, I’ve done a couple WWW LA ones. The first one was with Elixir Distillers. We tasted several Scotches as well as a rum! With my tasting ticket and samples, I got the Askaig tasting glass. I normally use a Glencairn glass but I have a handful of other shaped tasting glasses and now my Askaig glass joins my pretty collection. I much prefer when samples are sent.
However, there have been some events where like Whiskey From Home, I had to go get the bottles. One such event was the Glenlivet event for the new Caribbean Reserve. WWW LA partnered with a local store which had the whisky at a good price plus some fun stuff. For instance, the Caribbean Reserve came with a mini 12-year-old and the Founder’s Reserve came with a bar spoon and bitters. I made a delicious Caribbean Reserve Manhattan with those bitters.
What’s different about these tastings are the cocktail recipes. With the Caribbean Reserve, we were sent the ingredient list for a Mai Tai. I ended up making my own orgeat which was a lot of fun. I had made the drink before hand but it was cool to see others followed along during the event with the brand ambassador making the drink.
And while I was buying the Caribbean and Founder’s Reserve bottles, I also picked up the peated cask Nadurra. I loved the original 16-year-old Nadurra and the store had this at a great price.
I participated in The Scotch Girl’s tasting of Glendronach. It was called Heels in the Highlands. Besides bringing your fave heels, it was recommended to have the Glendronach 12 and 15 on hand for the tasting. I got notice too late to get the whisky but I still had a lot of fun with the group of ladies mostly from Miami as well as a smattering of women from the various chapters of Women Who Whiskey. We even had a woman chatting with us from Australia! During the tasting, I was reviewing my night from my tasting back in 2018.
Check out the Scotch Girl’s recap here of Heels in the Highlands on her instagram. I’m drooling over the shoes! You might have guessed from my logo that the Minty loves heels as well as a good dram. And, If you’re in the Miami area, give Bianca a follow as well as her club she co-founded, Scotch Society 305. They have wonderful events.
I’ve seen other tastings similar to this one directly from brands like Balvenie which recently did a virtual concert . They recommended sipping along to the concert with the Balvenie Doublewood. I would like to participate more but it also means getting full sized 750 ml bottles. I need to find a good source for high end minis!
As much as I love bars and restaurants as well as in-person whisky tastings, it’s so much safer to enjoy at home. Besides tastings with local clubs and brands, see if your favorite restaurant or bar is doing virtual tastings. I’ve also seen online tastings offered on sites like Goldstar. I recently saw a Macallan tasting on there and really considered it since I would love to taste some special editions.
People have asked me to lead whisky tastings online. And I’m thinking about it. I have enjoyed all the various styles of tastings I’ve done online recently. And I could see how I would so some things differently. We might be at home more but that doesn’t mean we have to stop learning or enjoying a fun event with friends online.
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