DIY Bourbon Tasting Party Tips
Tasting parties, usually reserved for wines, are now being hosted for bourbons due to the meteoric rise in bourbon’s popularity. But, if you’ve looked into any of the ones near you, you’ve likely noticed that they’re being hosted by one particular brand and therefore have offerings limited to that brand.
So, if you want to try a variety of bourbons and learn about the differences through a hands-on experience, you’ll have to throw your own bourbon tasting party! Having a bourbon-themed party is a great way to have fun learning something new. Whether your guests are casual bourbon fans or experienced connoisseurs, we’ve put together some tips to get the most out of your bourbon bash.
You’ll want to keep the guest list to around 10 people. This allows for easier discussions as well as allowing you to buy only one bottle of each bourbon. Each 750ml bottle contains just over 25 ounces which means each guest gets a 2 ounce pour and you get some left over at the end.
Glencairn glasses, available at Spec’s, have the perfect tulip shape for showcasing bourbon’s flavors so they’re the preferred stemware, but really any tumbler or rocks glasses will do.
Creating Bourbon Flights
Utilizing the category model for creating your bourbon flight presents opportunities to educate your guests and ensures a variety of flavors. Ask a Spec’s expert to help you locate bourbons in the following tasting categories: Low proof Bourbon (80-85 proof), wheated Bourbon, rye whiskey, small batch, single barrel or barrel strength.
You can do flights of bourbons in similar categories, or similar regions, or you can choose to have flights of contrasting bourbons such as bourbons from different states, single barrels from different distillers, different mash bills, or whatever you desire.
You should have cool, distilled water on hand to use as a palate cleanser between tastes. The water is also used to splash the bourbon and for this we suggest using an eyedropper for precise control. Splashing bourbon has been proven to bring the flavors and aromas to the surface and thereby provide a more accurate representation of the bourbons taste profile. You want distilled water to ensure there is no iron in it as iron ruins the taste of whiskey. This is why bourbon is mostly made in central Kentucky as this region of the state sits on a limestone shelf that naturally filters iron out of the streams and creeks.
If you’re hosting a party of any kind, you’ll have food available. A bourbon tasting party is no different. You’ll want to have foods that work well with the bourbon. Aged parmesan is an excellent choice. Dried cranberries or cherries work wonderfully to balance the natural bitterness of bourbon with their tartness. Dark chocolate and walnuts deepen, yet mellow the flavor, while crackers act as a palate cleanser. A standard meat and cheese tray is a great accompaniment to bourbon.
When tasting bourbon, you’re evaluating four attributes – appearance, aroma, taste, and finish.
The shade of amber can help you determine the proof and even hint at the age. The darker the color the higher the proof and the lighter the color the lower the proof.
When smelling the bourbon, don’t swirl it around the glass like wine, instead bring it carefully to your nose and smell with your mouth open. Make note of the scents you’re able to pick out.
It’s recommended that you swish the bourbon around your mouth as each section of your tongue will pick up different flavors giving you a more complete taste. There ae five flavor categories for bourbon: Fruit/Floral, Wood, Grain, Sweet, and Spice. These flavors breakdown further for finer and finer descriptions.
If the taste lingers for a while, that’s a long finish. If it dissipates quickly, that’s a short finish. A warm sensation in your upper body is referred to by some as the “Kentucky Hug.”
After you’ve tasted it, try adding one drop of water and making note of the differences you experience. Then try two drops, but don’t over-water it!
No matter how you do your tasting, the best thing you can do is have fun – this is bourbon after all!