I will be giving some details on the Whiskey Master Class we took that are specific to the class on the Carnival Vista.
Since it was our first time taking this course, I have no way of knowing if they are all the same, or if there are differences.
So if you want to go in completely surprised, then stop reading and just know that we LOVED the class and HIGHLY recommend it!
Well worth the money!!!
If you don't mind some spoilers, then here we go!!!
On our recent cruise on the Carnival Vista(10/05/2019 - 10/12/2019), G and I decided to take the Whiskey Master Class that was offered at the Alchemy Bar.
There were about 6 other people there and others showed up while we were waiting.
We went down for the Sign-Up only to learn that the class is actually the next day.
This is due to the amount of prep necessary for each student.
And the class is actually a lot more than we thought it would be.
Aleksandar explained that rather than a simple "tasting", we were informed the class would include a history on Scotch Whiskey, as well as a tasting of 9 different whiskies and at then end of the class, we would blend our own whiskey to take home in a 100ml bottle.
We were warned that we should make sure to eat before the class, since we would definitely not want to come on an empty stomach.
At this point Aleksandar looked us all in the eyes with great seriousness and intensity and stated "I'm not even kidding. You do NOT want to show up not having eaten!"
The cost of the class was $29, with gratuities so it came out to $34.
We show up for class and our "Chemist" Aleksandar (from the sign up) led us into the "secret area" the class would be held, which turned out to be the back dining room of the 555 Fahrenheit Steakhouse (conveniently located right next to the Alchemy Bar on the Vista).
There was a long table with what looked like laboratory setups. Each chair had a white lab coat draped over it, emblazoned with the Dewar's Whiskey and Carnival logos.
It was at this point we realized that the class was sponsored by Dewar's.
At each place setting, there were 4 small snifters each filled with a different Scotch Whiskey, behind which was a rack filled with test tubes.
Each test tube also held a different whiskey.
Next to the rack was a tall beaker filled with water (important to stay hydrated!), a small beaker for mixing our blend and a stirring spoon.
There was also an empty 100ml bottle with a label, cap and a black sharpie so that you could write the specifics on the label.
Having made plans to meet Cupcake for Afternoon Tea at 3pm, and G was meeting his wife D for Disco Dance Lessons at 2:30pm, we asked how long the class would take.
Turns out the class lasts 1-1/2 hrs!
The class was less a lecture and more discussion, as Aleksandar led us from the purpose of alcohol itself (medicine), when Scotch was invented (around 1494 was the first distilled Scotch Whiskey) and on to the differences in Scotch Whiskey - single malts, double malts and blends.
It was very interesting and informative since I am what you might call a basic scotch drinker (I prefer an inexpensive Speyside). I now know the difference between a single malt and a blend, how long a scotch has to be aged before they can print the "years" on the bottle and many other facts I wrote down because I knew I would forget.
We were asked who mixed their scotch with Coke Zero ( I do), who mixes it with Dr. Pepper or any other soda (a good portion of the class).
We were then informed that we were wrong, since that is apparently an unacceptable way to consume whisky.
Water or ice. But it is never to be mixed with sugary drinks.
After much Q&A, where most of us were fruitlessly trying to ignore the buffet of whisky laid out in front of us, we were finally led into the sampling portion of our lesson.
We began with the four small snifters, moving from left to right.
The first snifter we swirled around like wine to see the way it glistened in the light and to watch the body and legs slowly drain down the sides to pool at the bottom of the glass.
Then we held it to our noses and inhaled the rich aromas.
Aleksandar quizzed us on what we could smell. Other students noted hints of spices or fruits or vanilla. I just smelled scotch.
We were instructed to take a drink, swishing it around our mouth. Let it sit on one cheek and then exhale.
This actually did improve the scotch flavor, helping it to develop (in my mind, at least).
More questions about what we could taste (fruits, spices, vanilla, oak from the cask, etc.)
At this point, I realized my palette must be pretty unrefined since I couldn't taste any of that other than the oakiness.
My ego was soothed a bit when G leaned over and said "I don't taste any of that. I just taste scotch".
Good to know we were on the same level!
I tried another drink, which drained glass 1, trying to taste these elusive "notes" and "flavors".
Maybe it would get easier to discern as we progressed.
It was revealed that we had been sampling Cutty Sark.
Our instructor then had us raise both glasses so we could compare the difference in their coloring.
Uh-oh! I didn't have anything left in glass 1 to compare to glass 2!
Fortunately, the student across from me was in the same boat and said as much while raising his empty glass.
Aleksandar said anyone that needed a refill could just let him know and he'd take care of it!
With 9 different whiskies to sample, I'm sure you can see why they told us to make sure we ate ahead of time.
I'm very glad they gave the warning, since the class started at 1PM and it would have been easy to skip lunch.
Armed with 2 glasses to compare, we held them either to the light or against our white lab coats.
Glass 2 was definitely darker, with a richer color.
We learned this was due to the amount of time it had spent aging in the barrels.
More swirling, sniffing and swishing, more proclamations of fruitiness, woodiness, etc. and more of me just nodding along and "trying" to smell or taste it.
This one had less bite and tasted a bit smoother. I like it pretty well.
Revealed to be Chivas Regal.
"Learning" from our first glass, most of the class had Aleksandar come refill our second snifter so we could proceed to comparing it to the third (this became something of a ritual because, why not?).
The third and fourth were both Dewar's products (the sponsor) - White Label and Dewar's 12 yr respectively.
Having exhausted our supply of snifters, we moved on to the test tubes.
Before sampling, we were informed that we would be using the contents of our test tubes to create our own blended scotch whiskey in the 100ml bottles.
Of course, no worries if we emptied the test tube while sampling because we had free refills!
The first test tube was filled with what Aleksandar generically labelled "Grain Whiskey".
My favorite of the class was the 3rd Test Tube, which was Macallan Quest Highland single malt and then the 4th test tube which was a Speyside 12 yrs single malt (not sure why I didn't find out which one)
The last test tube in my opinion tasted like drinking Liquid Smoke, however G declared that to be his favorite. It was an Ardbeg 12 yrs.
I generously gave him the rest of my test tube to finish it off.
While I blended my bottle from test tubes 2 and 3, I also managed to get a refill on Snifter 3 and put a good bit of Dewar's White Label in there as well.
Sealed the cap, named my blend after myself (because why not) and then drained the rest of the test tubes and snifters (so there would be less clean up for Aleksandar, of course!)
We were presented with snazzy black certificates that Certified Hereby that we had completed an introductory Master Whiskey Class.
Aleksandar had us line up outside the Alchemy Bar and we took a group photo in our lab coats with our certificates and blends, which he says he will post to FB later.
Sadly, we had to return the lab coats (I kind of enjoyed it and G looked pretty sharp in his).
Since a few in the class had gotten chatty, and there was a bit of cutting up (blame it on the free refills) the class wasn't actually over until about 2:45.
We found out that D wasn't feeling well and had gone back to the room, so G accompanied Cupcake and myself to what was a very fun and hilarious (to us at least) Afternoon Tea.
Cucumber sammies, smoked salmon crusties, scones and pastries really hit the spot after that class!!
Overall this was a fun, informative and tasty class and I would highly recommend it!
When you take into account the amount of alcohol you "sample" as well as the 100ml you get to take with you, it is an excellent value.
I plan on taking it again next cruise if it is offered.
In the attached photos, the scotch whiskies are (left to right):
Chivas Regal 12 yrs
Dewar's White Label
Dewar's 12 yrs
Aberfeldy Highland 12 yrs infused with honey
Macallan Quest Highland
Speyside 12 yrs
Ardbeg 12 yrs
The final photo shows my own blend "Chervil" made from a secret proprietary proportion of Aberfeldy Highland, Macallan Quest and Dewar's White Label.
I have not yet opened it, since my father is a scotch drinker and I will share it with him.
Hopefully it tastes as good as I think it will!