Like with wine, the world of whiskey can be a fiercely intimidating one, fraught with seemingly endless styles of whiskey and the perpetual fear of “just not getting it.” Is Scotch a type of whiskey? (Yes.) How is Tennessee whiskey different from bourbon? (It’s charcoal filtered.) Is it spelled “whiskey” or “whisky”? (Both, my friends.) If you’re a newcomer to the spirit — or just want to improve your palate — we found a few regular tastings around town that are designed to expand your whiskey knowledge.
Cozy up to the bar at this Jamaica Plain establishment during Dram Night, held every Friday and Saturday, for a taste of four single malt Scotches. The distilleries that are featured rotate each month; in November, the pub pits Glenmorangie and Ardbeg against each other with a discussion about the history of both and the differences between each dram. Pro tip: Arrive early for lamb haggis or shepherd’s pie. (The Haven; 2 Perkins St., Boston; Fridays and Saturdays at 9:30 p.m.; $30)
Winner of the 2017 Best American Hotel Bar at the Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards, The Hawthorne does a lot of things right: Great service. Exceptional drinks. Educating its guests — as evidenced by Sunday Sips, a regularly occurring tasting series that features distillery experts dropping knowledge about different spirits. More than half the time, the spirit is whiskey. “It’s so accessible,” said Jackson Cannon, The Hawthorne’s owner and bar director, who said that many people at the tastings just wander in. “There’s a difference in tasting and drinking. In a classroom context, we’ll teach you to sip and spit the way we do. We teach people to have a better sense memory.” On Nov. 11, stop by to hear Dave Avery talk about Wild Turkey; on Nov. 18, Allan Roth will discuss Glenffidich. All sips are sold by the ounce in The Hawthorne’s events space, the Stone Room, which is reserved specifically for these events. (The Hawthorne, 500A Commonwealth Ave.; every Sunday at 5 p.m.; $7–$30 per pour)
Sometimes the best education comes in the form of a cocktail rather than a dram. Saloon offers Whiskey Wednesdays, a dinner pairing held on the first Wednesday of each month that highlights one distillery with cocktail pairings at each course. On Dec. 5, the Somerville bar will host a Christmas dinner with Glendalough Distillery, featuring paired cocktails, a flight of the distillery’s whiskey (and possibly their gin as well), and a family-style meal fit for the holidays. Tickets for the December event haven’t yet been released as of this article’s publication. (Saloon, 255 Elm St.; first Wednesday of each month at 7 p.m.; prices vary)
The Smoke Shop
It’s not all about barbecue at The Smoke Shop, Andy Husbands’ brisket and rib mecca that boasts locations in Assembly Row, Kendall Square, and the Seaport. You need something to wash it all down, which is where the restaurant’s new monthly whiskey tastings come in. The plan is for each month to have a different focus; the “Home for the Holiday” whiskey classes on Dec. 4 and Dec. 5 will feature Boston-area distilleries and will include a cocktail tutorial and “holiday surprises.” (The Smoke Shop; Seaport on Dec. 4 and Kendall on Dec. 5 at 6 p.m.; $46.19)
Wink & Nod
Into Scotch? Want to be into Scotch? Joining the Scotch Club at Wink & Nod is a safe place to start. Once a month, the South End bar features a new Scotch distillery and invites brand ambassadors to educate members with a tasting flight. Securing membership is a bit time-consuming — you’ll have to go to Wink & Nod, fill out an application, and pay a one-time, $20 membership fee — but once you’re in, you’re in. Members receive a coin that they can plunk down on the bar, signaling that they’d like to indulge in a whiskey tasting — which often includes rare and limited release surprises. (Wink & Nod; 3 Appleton St.; various dates; $20 membership fee)