“A tasting on tour – the Blind Swiss” by Paul Mclean of MCLEANSCOTLAND WHISKY TOURS

A tasting on tour – the Blind Swiss

Being biased doesn’t exclude our taste in whisky. Some people say they dislike a certain brand or style, based on a previous experience. Tasting “blind” refers to tasting without knowledge of a whisky’s identity and is a great way to become a better ‘taster’, develop your senses, and learn more about your own whisky preferences. Simply put, if I told you one whisky is £500 and another is £50, would you expect the expensive whisky to be of higher quality? When tasting blind, it’s best to reserve discussion until everyone is finished at least the first dram. Members of the group can be easily influenced by positive or negative reactions of fellow tasters, especially if there are various levels of knowledge and experience in the room. A study in the Journal of Consumer Research involving 60 to 150 undergraduate students in various experiments determined that when tasting orange juice, the colour had a greater impact on taste than its actual sweetness. Since whiskies like scotch permit caramel colouring, consider using dark glasses – blue, green etc – to hide the colour.

This wee group on tour with us from Switzerland where up for most things, all had their own favourites and we did too, conversation before the tasting revealed a lot – who liked blends, sherry or peaty finishes. Paul selected the whiskies, we had no coloured glasses at this point, so tried to select drams of a similar colour. The only thing we said; these are all Diageo drams. We aren’t experts but it was fascinating to hear all the different ideas, suggestions as to what each dram was. In this blind tasting we limited drams to three, interesting results; out of three drams we had at least twenty possibles. When the actual drams were outlined, ooh’s and ahh’s followed and “I thought so”.

So to be honest, it a very hard to find expert who can say which each dram is on a blind tasting, Charlie Maclean is a close candidate for the champion I know, but at this time, it is very educational, enlightening, fun and satisfying to see what fellow drammers think and if anyone got any dram correct!  Have a go yourself, we will continue to do this on our tours. PAUL MCLEAN

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