How to get the most out of a Whisky or Wine festival

Samantha PillingFood and Drink

Corridor in winery

Going to your first whisky or wine festival can be a delightful experience, if you know what to expect and are organised. Initially, you’ll want to check the obvious things, such as knowing what time the tasting session are, what your ticket does and doesn’t cover etc. When it comes to enjoying the festival itself, you’ll want to know the dress code, the do’s and don’ts of tasting and how to hold the glass, in order to maximise your tasting experience.

Luckily, we’ve compiled a list of the more common dilemmas and how-to’s of whisky and wine festival newbies, below.

Watch what you wear.

Make sure you adhere to any dress code and, if there isn’t one, wear something comfortable. It’s also a really good idea to avoid heavily-scented cologne or perfume – as it may interfere with the delicate aromas and spoil the experience for the other tasters.

The know-how of glass holding

If you’re tasting wine, make sure you hold the glass by the stem, otherwise you may disturb the temperature of the wine. When you swirl the wine in your glass, do so by placing it on a flat surface – you can then use your other hand to swirl the glass by its stem.

How to get the most out of your tasting sessions.

Tasting whisky and wine isn’t just about how it tastes on the palette – you can learn a lot from the colour and aroma too. Start by looking at the colour. The older a whisky, the darker its colour and, if you’re tasting wine, start with the white and lighter colours, so as not to miss out on the delicate flavours. You can then move onto the aroma – take a couple of sniffs to detect the spices and give yourself the opportunity to identify them. It’s worth remembering that whisky has a higher alcohol content to wine, so take a delicate sniff, near the top of the glass – with wine, you can sniff deeper! Next step, is the taste. Let your whisky or wine coat your entire tongue and linger in your mouth, in order to understand how the flavour changes, prior to swallowing (or spitting, if you prefer). And finally, the finish. This is the culmination of the entire tasting experience. How does it compare to others? Did you detect any finishing notes? Would you like to taste more of it?

Remember to drink in moderation

A tasting session is primarily an opportunity to sample whisky or wine – it’s not about downing everything in front of you. If you want your tasting session to be a learning experience for you, as well as an enjoyable event, be aware of your alcoholic consumption – this is why there are often wine spittoons available at wine tasting sessions, as it’s easy to get carried away by the quality of the wines being sampled!

Finally, make sure to give yourself the time to explore the entire festival experience. Give yourself time to have an opportunity to explore the grounds, listen to the talks and interact with your fellow whisky or wine festival goers.

The Grim’s Dyke hotel is delighted to be hosting both the Harrow Wine Festival and the Harrow Whisky Festival at the beginning of 2017. For dates, accommodation and further information, please visit the relevant websites: and

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