First off, a big shout-out to Admiral & everyone else who helped out. The evening was an unbelievable success & everyone had a great time. In 2 short years I've seen at least a dozen people (including myself) go from 'typical guy scotch drinker' to being somewhat refined in our scotch tastes. It's like wine tasting for guys.
It's been said that plan A never survives first contact w/ the enemy. I emphatically promoted the idea of holding separate groups for the tasting, something that the group did *not* want to hear. Eventually I convinced them to at least separate the two groups of bottles & alternate the bottle tasting, group 1, group 2, group 1, etc. At least we'd have the option to stick w/ one group. Most people did in fact try to go w/ one group, up until people started comparing the experience of tasting bottles such as Caol Ila 18 as being superior to sex. Then everyone just HAD to try it, and then the groups broke down. For the record, it was a damn fine scotch, but I wouldn't go THAT far.
I found that our palates were remarkably resilient if we didn't drink a lot of each scotch. In fact, I could taste everything pretty well right up to the point that we broke out the Lagavoulin, then all bets were off. I think you could burn through a LOT of different 'non-peaty' scotches & retain good tasting ability. But try Laphroaig followed by Lagavoulin & you're done.
The other remarkable thing is that we didn't even come close to finding a 'best' scotch. There were a half dozen bottles that were simply awesome, but that did something completely unique. For example, "The Bunny" had a superb flavor & a long finish with little 'harshness'. Not a lot of complexity, but a perfect scotch for sippin' on the deck (perhaps w/ a good cigar) talking to some good buds on a summer evening. The Caol Ila was amazingly complex, and had a mouth feel that was just incredible. But those complex scotches really forced you to concentrate on what was going on. It was a little exhausting on the palate. It was great, but different than The Bunny.
Once again, thanks for the help w/ the drink order, we would have certainly messed things up w/o your help. Actually people started lining up bottles on their own until I regulated a bit. Disaster averted.
The moral of the story is that anyone can run a remarkably good tasting event. Just come up w/ some creative emails, hype it, and then have "well motivated" people show up w/ their bottle for the tasting. I've found that requiring the purchase of a bottle over $45 guarantees 'motivated' participants. It really runs itself. If you can come up w/ cool stories for each scotch (what my girlfriend refers to as scotch 'foreplay') then all the better.