Bourbon is America’s darling. The brown spirit is part of the country’s history and tradition and is undoubtedly one delightful drink.
What is Bourbon, anyway? Although Bourbon is whiskey, not all whiskeys are Bourbon. Authentic Bourbon must be made anywhere in the USA (although most of it comes from Kentucky), it must be made with at least 51% corn and aged in charred oak barrels.
The result? A lovely oak-scented spirit that’s both uncomplicated and comforting, but incredibly sophisticated. Here’s a quick guide to learn how to taste Bourbon like a pro.
Taste, not Drink.
This quick guide to tasting Bourbon will let you enjoy your favorite spirit much more. It will help you develop some new skills, too, like learning to describe it better. Now you can be one of those snobby Bourbon drinkers that stick their nose in the glass instead of just chucking it.
Tasting bourbon is not the same thing as drinking it. To taste is to explore with all your senses to really appreciate what the label is all about. After a thorough tasting, it’s totally okay to drink Bourbon or even make cocktails with it, but first things first — taste, taste, taste.
You Taste with your Senses.
Look at that Color!
The first thing to do with a glass of Bourbon is admiring it. The spirit’s color can tell us a lot about it, including if it’s been aged for long periods. The darker the Bourbon, the older and more robust it usually is. Use descriptors as pale and deep and assess if the Bourbon has the color of straw, gold, copper, amber or old oak.
1. Never judge a Bourbon by its color.
That’s what we call a bouquet!
Once you’ve judged the Bourbon’s appearance, it’s time to use the most important sense in tasting, the sense of smell. Our nose can detect thousands of scents, and there can be hundreds of them in a glass of Bourbon. Some common aroma descriptors in Bourbon are:
· Orange peels
· Sweet corn
1. Whatever scent you perceive, just call it. Chances are others will find that aroma as well.
2. The more you train your nose, the better you’ll be at identifying aromas.
3. Use a wide glass to taste Bourbon. Just like with wine, the right glass can enhance the spirit’s aromatic profile.
4. Swirling the glass might help open the spirit a bit.
Let’s take a sip!
Once you’ve sniffed the Bourbon, it’s time to taste it. Since Bourbon is a high-proof spirit, you’ll want to take the first sip and ignore it. Once your palate has adjusted to its strength, you can take a second sip and assess Bourbon.
Make sure you swish Bourbon in your mouth before swallowing to really taste it. Then share your impressions. You might find flavors similar to the aromas you first encountered on the nose and even new ones. The question here is, do you like it? Is it honeyed or oaky, is it overwhelmingly smoky, or is it balanced?
1. Tasting Bourbon too warm will make it feel overly alcoholic. Tasting it too cold will make it seem dull and closed. A room temperature of 15-18°C (60-65°F) is ideal.
Then there’s the finish!
One of the most attractive qualities of Bourbon is its long finish; you can take a sip and still be able to taste it after a few minutes. The finish’s length is not as important as its quality. How attractive is the finish? Does the Bourbon leave you with pleasant memories while drinking it?
That’s how you taste Bourbon.
Tasting Bourbon should never be too serious of a matter, but an enjoyable exercise that will help you get closer with your favorite Bourbon producers and brands. The more you taste, the more you’ll fall in love with the brown spirit.
The most noteworthy thing, though, is tasting Bourbon with others. Like with all things that bring pleasure, tasting spirits is something you want to share with your loved ones.