The­ Etiquette

Ever thought that holding a whisky tasting with friends was meant to be a frivolous and light-hearted business? SMWS member David Daly begs to differ, with his light-hearted look at the serious matter of home-tasting Etiquette – with a capital ‘E’



Attendance is by invitation only.

Best efforts should be made to target a total attendance of eight, with a cap of 10.

The Group should target the hosting of four to six evenings a year.

As this document was written by someone with an Irish tilt, the word whiskey is spelled correctly.

No Scottish persons were harmed in the writing of the Etiquette.

In deciding whom is to host an evening, priority will always be given to that person who so offers that has not hosted for the longer time, this relative to the other person or persons who similarly offer to host.


Having elected to organise an evening, the host should communicate the date and time to the Group.

The Master of the (previous whiskies) List should communicate via e-mail the latest version to the Group.

The List will note the person who introduced each whiskey.

The List will note the elected Whiskey of the Night from previous evenings.

All attendees must introduce their whiskey to the Group via email in advance of the evening.

Beyond clearly naming the whiskey being introduced, there is no specific guidance as to what might be communicated in support of the same.

Where two people propose bringing the same whiskey, the first person to declare shall have the right to bring that whiskey.


A beverage legally designated as bourbon is not whiskey and may not be introduced.

A whiskey may never be introduced twice.

Where a distillery has publicly communicated that a new version of an existing whiskey is being released, that new whiskey will be deemed distinct from the legacy version and may be introduced in its own right.

This List should note which whiskey is the legacy version and which is the new version.

On any evening whiskey is to be consumed unadulterated.

No ice, water or other mixing agent may interact with introduced whiskies during the evening.

Shaped marble that has been frozen is permitted .

The freezing or chilling of a drinking glass is permitted.

While there is no specific guidance as to what whiskies are deemed appropriate, it is expected that attendees will recognise the stature of the evening, choose and propose accordingly.

A whiskey that is introduced and then withdrawn because it is opened ahead of the evening shall be known as a Shame Whiskey.

The remains of this bottle should be brought to the evening where it can be tasted by attendees.

It cannot be considered for Whiskey of the Night.

The host may choose to introduce a Mystery Whiskey.

This whiskey is decanted in advance, the boxed bottle wrapped to hide its identity.

Attendees are invited to complete source and tasting notes during the evening.

At the end of the evening the completed sheets are passed, such that no-one has their own sheet, and the correct answers are given by the host. Points are awarded for correct answers.

The Mystery Whiskey may be chosen as the Whiskey of the Night.

It is recognised that strongly held opinions, communicated over a protracted period of time, may change.

To support this transition, a Penitent Whiskey may be separately introduced, accompanied by sufficient contrition at the end of each individual’s whiskey introduction, but prior to the Guest Whiskey.

This whiskey must comply with the general rules of whiskey introduction.

Size doesn’t matter, but the introduced whiskey should be sufficient in quantity so that all attendees can enjoy a reasonably measured dram.


All introduced whiskies on the night will be brought unopened.

Personal bottlings: The introduction of a personal bottling is a wonderous occasion and a privilege for those in attendance.

Deciding where the personal bottling fits in the tasting order may give rise to a challenge.

Tasting notes are not normally provided.

The following should help ensure that it is tasted in the order of tasting, such that it is not disadvantaged.

• Personal bottlings may be opened at the beginning of the evening.

• A glass is poured.

• An assessment is made before each bottle is in turn opened, as to whether the nose suggests it should be the next bottle tasted.

At the beginning of the evening, attendees will decide in what order the introduced whiskies are to be tasted. This decision is entirely at the discretion of the attendees on the night.

Whiskey will be opened in turn by its introducer at the commencing of that whiskey’s tasting.

The host of an evening may introduce a Guest Whiskey once all introduced whiskies have been opened.

This whiskey need not be unopened. Only one such whiskey can be introduced in this manner.

The Guest Whiskey can be considered for Whiskey of the Night.

Any attendee may, but not the host, after the introduction and tasting of the guest whiskey, attempt to introduce an additional whiskey, but only with the general approval of the Group.

• This whiskey must adhere to the relevant rules of introducing whiskey as noted earlier

• This whiskey will be known as the Sneaky Whiskey.

• This Sneaky Whiskey can be considered for Whiskey of the Night.

After all whiskies have been introduced and tasted, the Group shall choose one, calling it the Whiskey of the Night.

An attendee should not vote for their own whiskey. Voting for your own whiskey is not disallowed but is considered extremely poor form.

In the case of a drawn vote, the following decision-making process shall decide the Whiskey of the Night.

• Each attendee that voted for the drawn whiskies will be in turn be blindfolded.

• Each attendee will be given a glass of the drawn whiskies to taste.

• Each attendee will blindly choose their preference.

• If the vote is still drawn after this the host will be blindfolded and given each whiskey to taste.

• The choice of the host is final and will be declared the Whiskey of the Night.

• The retained list of introduced whiskies will be amended to note the Whiskey of the Night.


After the Whiskey of the Night has been chosen, each attendee will be blindfolded in turn and given two random whiskies from those introduced during the evening.

The choosing of the whiskies will be made by agreement of the remaining attendees.

Recognising at least one should be considered an acceptable result to the challenge.

Recognising both is an act of great distinction.

Not presenting an introduced whiskey as part of the blind tasting to a blindfolded attendee, while not disallowed, is playing the man and not the ball.


If more than one person correctly identifies one or both whiskies during their blindfolded tasting, a sudden-death tasting will decide the title of Taster of the Night.

An order will be agreed and then each person will be blindfolded and presented with one whiskey from those introduced.

If the whiskey is not identified, that whiskey is removed from the selection pool for the remainder of this process.

The title Taster of the Night will go to the first person who correctly identifies the whiskey presented to them.


What would you add – or remove – from David’s home tasting Etiquette? Email

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