Whiskey Blind Tastings
What’s a Blind Bottle?
First the problem: There are a lot of biases that come with knowing the whiskey I’m drinking: price, brand recognition, remembering that someone I trust once said it’s good. These and more can affect my opinion of a whiskey, where I know it or not. Trying a whiskey blind takes away most biases, allowing me to form my own opinion of this whiskey.
The next problem: I love enjoying whiskey blind, but it’s near impossible to do without the assistance of another person. The closest I could get to trying a blind tasting was to pour two whiskeys in glasses, label them on the bottom, and switch them up until I didn’t know which one was which. This has some drawbacks: I know which whiskeys I’m trying, and if either whiskey has a slight tell, I’m quickly tipped off.
My solution: I decided to come up with a solution to the problem of biased tastings, which I call a “blind bottle”. The blind bottle allows you to enjoy without all of those biases getting in the way.
I’ll share how I use the app above to create blind bottles.
First, fill a little bottle with a whiskey that I want to taste blind, and then I use the little app above to “Create a Blind Bottle”. I give the app the whiskey name, and it returns a code.
I label the bottle with the code, and I set the bottle on my whiskey shelf next to all of the other bottles I have created.
When it comes time to enjoy a blind bottle, I grab one from the shelf and pour it into a glass. I write down any tasting notes that I experience.
After I have enjoyed the whiskey, I use the app to “Look Up a Bottle”, typing in the code. The app will give me the name of the whiskey. It’s that simple.
Blind Bottle Ideas
There are several fun ways you can use the app to have blind tastings. Here are some recommendations.
Some of the best tasting experiences I’ve had were trying multiple whiskeys together. Pinpointing tasting notes is easier when you have somthing to compare and contrast with.
If you want to pair whiskeys together, simply add another identifier, like a letter or number or matching stickers, to the bottles to distinguish them as a pair.
When your ready to do a pairing, find the bottles with the matching identifier and enjoy your pairing. When you’re done, look up the codes to identify the whiskeys.
Here’s what Semi-Blind Flight is: I grab a blind bottle and try it. I try to guess what the whiskey is, and I pour a glass of what I think it is. If they taste the same, then I can be proud that I was able to pinpoint the whiskey. If they don’t taste the same, I will compare and contrast the flavors (and possibly pour a second guess).
I’ve found this to be a really good way to distinguish certain notes and even certain flavor profiles of whiskeys.
Sharing Blind Bottles with a Friend
Create some blind bottles for your friends without having to keep track of which bottle is which.
Tips for Making Blind Bottles
Here are some additional tips to make your blind bottle experience better.
What kind of bottles should I use and where do I find them?
There are many online retailers that sell bottles that you can use for blind bottles. I have purchased bottles from Amazon many times, and sometimes it’s obvious they’ve been used. Recently, I’ve switched over to Specialty Bottle, which I recommend.
I have found the 1oz bottles to work really well. I prefer 1oz over 2oz because 1oz is just the right amount of one whiskey in a pairing, and you don’t go through your whiskey so quickly.
If you use plastic bottles, ensure that they are PET plastic (polyethylene terephthalate). Ethanol (drinking alcohol) is a solvent, meaning it can dissolve some chemicals in plastics, possibly affecting the whiskey. PET plastic is considered safe for storing alcohol, and it is the type of plastic used in plastic liquor bottles.
What kind of labels should I use?
I recommend using something that is easy to read and won’t wipe off easily. If you’re going to re-use the bottles, I recommend using something that can come off when washing.
Types of labels I recommend:
- Scotch Tape
- Washi Tape
- Plastic Labels from a Label Maker (if you want to be fancy)
Types of labels I don’t recommend:
- Dry Erase Marker: It smudges really easy and you may accidentally erase the code.
- Permanent Marker: It’s hard to see and you can’t re-use the bottle.
- Paper Labels: Paper labels, like the ones for letters do not come off easily.
“Surely I’ll remember the codes so this wouldn’t work”
If you have enough bottles on your shelf, I promise you won’t. I typically have 15-25 on my shelf to make the odds of remembering a code even harder. Hell, sing along to some music while you fill the bottles, and it will be enough distraction.
What whiskeys should I try blind?
This is simple: all of them. Even the expensive ones. Especially the expensive ones. Wouldn’t it be nice to find that you really prefer that $26 bottle of whiskey to the hyped-up $80 bottle? Wouldn’t it be nice to address the fact that the bottle of Pappy you spent $800 to get your hand on tastes more like a $95 whiskey to you? Or maybe you’ll find it was money well spent.
Whatever you find from your blind tastings, you can have comfort and confidence in the opinions you form on the whiskeys you enjoy (or don’t enjoy).
How quickly should I drink the bottles?
I initially had a concern that the whiskey would somehow go bad or muted in the bottles after a while, but I haven’t seen this to be the case. I’ve enjoyed bottles that were poured 6 months before, and I couldn’t taste a significant difference when comparing them to a fresh pour of the same whiskey.
Can I re-use bottles? How do I clean the bottles?
I re-use the bottles a few times, cleaning them between each use. You can get little bottle cleaners, but I have found washing them with soap and water to suffice. For extra measure, I do rinse them in distilled or purified water before drying them so that they don’t get any lime or other residue from tap water. It may be that we have bad water in the Texas Panhandle, but I have found that final rinse to be very important.