Sometimes there’s a benefit to going in blind. Sipping whiskey without knowing exactly what you’re drinking allows you to focus fully on the flavor without all of the baggage you bring when already know the brand. It can also open your world up to whiskeys you may not have considered previously. Whiskey consultant and master distiller Marianne Eaves is releasing her second Eaves Blind tasting kit, a luxury experience with a personal touch that will introduce you to some very interesting whiskeys.
Eaves has a long track record working in Kentucky and Tennessee whiskey, having worked at Brown-Forman, held the position of master distiller at Castle & Key in Lexington and collaborated with Peyton Manning on sourcing and blending the whiskey for his Sweetens Cove brand. But Eaves Blind is her own baby, and we had the opportunity to talk to her about the process that went into creating this luxury blind tasting experience.
The details of this year’s Eaves Blind are a bit different from last year’s inaugural release. The cost for the 2022 edition is $1,000, and will include the following: nine samples of single source (aka from one distillery) whiskeys blended by Eaves, nine single barrel samples selected by Eaves, nine curated water samples, three opaque black crystal glasses and educational material that will explain the tasting process. Members of Eaves Blind will receive a single kit with all these materials instead of the installments that were sent out last year, with a key arriving every few months to unlock the next section. Eaves will host live-stream tasting events for each reveal, with the final one happening in September of 2023 when she will also reveal a tenth blend that she has created.
Eaves looks at the experience as a way to develop your tasting skills and educate yourself about whiskey, with a focus on product that comes from small producers outside of Kentucky. “I think I’ve had a pretty dramatic palate journey,” she told Robb Report. “So [this kit] is a palate development and bourbon education program based on how I do tastings and how I create blends. I want people to experience the bourbons that I create, but then also the broader ‘secret’ of the industry that there’s really amazing bourbon being made all over the country, not just in Kentucky.”
Last year’s release had samples from distilleries including Kings County (Brooklyn, NY), St. Augustine (Florida), Treaty Oak (Texas), Journeyman (Michigan), and Watershed (Ohio). This year will feature different distilleries, some of whom Eaves has personal relationships with, but most importantly are producers of whiskey that she enjoys and respects. “It’s always a criteria that I need to have personally tasted it before I accept them into the program,” she said. “I had to have a couple of tough conversations with guys that I felt weren’t ready, weren’t working at the level yet. I think it’s important not only for the members who are going to buy into the program as a consumer, but it’s also important for the other brands that are aligning with me and trusting that this will help to elevate their brand and bring a different set of eyes to what they’re producing.”
Regarding those water samples and black crystal glasses—those are elements that might seem a bit precious, but Eaves deemed them to be crucial to the experience. She has plenty of knowledge about how water affects whiskey, particularly during fermentation, but believes the tasting aspect of it has not been given as much attention. “Each one of these samples is a water source from the unique region [in which] the blend was made,” she said. “Many of [the distilleries] had natural sources of water, so I was like, ‘Send me whatever you’re using for fermentation. I don’t want your reverse osmosis water. I want it to be as pure as we can get for the the region that you’re in.'” And the black crystal is a change from last year’s black Glencairn glasses, a proprietary creation that is actually black instead of coated. “They say when you remove one of your senses, the others become amplified,” she said. “And that’s exactly the experience that I want people to have… Holding a black glass up to your mouth and not being able to see the level in the glass, not exactly knowing when it’s going to hit your palate, the whole process makes you more intentional and more thoughtful.”
Eaves Blind memberships are on sale now at Eavesblind.com.