1. Travel around the world from your sofaAlways wanted to go to the Caribbean? Dreaming of the scents and flavours of Thailand? Or is Guatemala at the top of your list? Well you don’t have to sit on a plane for 12 hours to start to discover these destinations.
Not sure where to start? Put a pin in a map or close your eyes or use a website like Earth Roulette - then off you go! Order in their local tipple - it could be a Zacapa Rum from Guatemala, if you’re feeling really adventurous accompany your drink with the country’s famous “crazy corn” - or the national dish of your choice. For Mexico try Inicio’s Tequila Blanco with a tuna ceviche, or Writers Tears Copper Pot Irish Whiskey with a spicy colcannon.
2. Write a tasting journalPicking up a pen and paper can be hugely beneficial and therapeutic - particularly when we spend a lot of time at home glued to one screen or another!
Dig out an old notebook or we particularly love Wearth London’s olive notebook and Green and Good’s recycled range. Next, pour your favourite tipple out and close your eyes.
First take notes on the aroma - does it remind you of playing in the garden as a child? Or of your last Christmas party? Note down the memories and scenes it evokes as well as the simple notes “smoky” etc. Then with your eyes closed once more, do the same for the taste.
Over time this will help you build a picture of which spirits are your absolute favourites, and if there are any you don’t love as much as you used to.
The beauty of this one is that if you can get your craft on too - stick the bottle’s label on the left hand side and write your notes on the right. If you’re particularly arty you could also sketch the bottle, or draw the ingredients and notes that you taste… Make it your own and you’ll have a journal of all your favourite flavours and spirits by the end of the year!
3. Start an infinity bottleNow’s the time to create something that is uniquely you and tells the tale of your history. Your taste encapsulated in one beautiful bottle.
All you need is a crystal decanter, or any of your old Whiskey bottles. If you’re using an old bottle why not soak it in soapy water until the label comes off and design your very own label. Name it “Ana’s infinity bottle” or “Luca’s living bottle”... Then the fun begins.
And it’s the least glamorous bit of Whisky - the dregs at the end of the bottle, where the magic lies. You can pour in all the dregs of your favourite Whiskies, or take a more focused approach - and have an end flavour in mind.
Add a blank label to list all the components, or keep a notebook next your infinity bottle. What’s so great is the aromas and taste will change week by week, and month by month - and is something you can go back to and tweak again and again. Let the experimentation commence!
4. Learn a new dialectSo you’ve traveled around half of Asia via Japanese Whiskies and Thai Rums, but you have no ability to say hello or do the accent? What better thing to do when you’ve finished work than perfect your Scottish accent accompanied by a smoky glass of Talisker’s Neist Point or Isle of Jura’s Jura 18 Year Old?
Fire up those YouTube videos or check out how to pronounce Scotch Whisky names and invite a friend over if you’re the competitive type - whoever has the best accent chooses which dialect you’ll try next…
5. Brush up your knowledgeNow’s the time to learn the background of your favourite spirit and find out all about their history. Geek out and become a total connoisseur of your favourite Vodka, where it’s made, by who, how much they sell a year… or just find out more about Japan’s Nikka Whiskies and how Scottish born Jessie Roberta Cowan set them on the path to success and came to be known as the Mother of Whiskey.
Why not learn about the history of Tequila on Flaviar YouTube channel - it’s like Netflix, just for booze...
6. Time for something newWe can all get stuck in a rut from time to time - particularly when it comes to mixing our drinks. Why not learn how to make a Gimlet rather than fixing your run of the mill Gin and tonic? You may have always seen yourself as a mixologist or bartender, so why not while away a few hours infusing your own Gin or Vodka.
Go completely radical and let your creative juices flow when you try making your own Pineapple Whiskey, Ginger Mezcal, Almond Brandy, or Chipotle Rum… Once you start, your home bar will be the envy of all the neighbours.
7. Blind tastingsWhen you’ve covered all of the above - get your blindfold out! What better time to test your knowledge than by organising a blind tasting. I’d recommend doing this on your own or with one or two other people, so you can really focus on the aromas and flavours of the spirits. Maybe one person leads and the other two blind taste against each other?
Otherwise it’s an ideal activity to prepare for a friend or housemate, or have them prepare for you. Line up a dram of four or five Rums and write both the notes and the Rum name and age down - let’s see how good your palate really is… (For absolute beginners, you could try multiple choice or match the drinks and the alredy written tasting notes - you get them Flaviar tasting boxes or just help yourself with the flavour spiral you find on every Flaviar page).
And if you get through all of those why don’t you start a reading list that features some classic cocktails? Try a Gin Fizz from Walker Percy’s Love in the Ruins, or a Vesper Martini from Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale (there’s even a James Bond authorised cocktail book you could look into…). You can extend this to films as well, an evening with Brandy based Champagne cocktails while watching Casablanca seems like time well spent to me.