although this is an older issue, I'd like to share my experience with blind tastings.
If asked, what the best way would be to enjoy and appreciate whisky my outcome would be:
1. Ex aequo: with your best friends or at blind tastings
3. At 'normal' tastings
I have participated in some blind tastings and that is absolutely great fun!!
In a group of 20 people we got 10 samples in clear glasses with someone animating the session. After each sample, the discussions and taking notes, the bottle was revealed.
You really find out how your taste buds work. Especially when there's an Irish whisky among them and everybody claims it to be one of the Lowlands...(to be honest, I did not think of Irish either...) I learned quite a lot from the discussions we had.
What you see, is that 'well known' regional characteristics can be identified by many group members, with the experienced participants getting approximately 50% right!
For me that still as a long way to go, but well, I keep on practising!
PS1: there was no brand benefit involved, there were OB's, independents, finishes, cask strengths, limited editions, almost any variation possible.
PS2: Frank, have you found your bottle of Coal Ila by now? Surely since there's a range of OB now. Have you already improved your score of 33.3%? And about high end audio: there are also some very characteristical differences like dynamic vs. electrostatic speakers or solid state vs. tube amplifiers. So here the differences should be noticeable as well...