There is a bit of a misnomer when it comes to what is socially acceptable when drinking bourbon. Let us be clear here. There is no right or wrong way. Again, bourbon is meant to be experienced in whatever way you prefer!
Drinking is what we do when we are mindlessly sharing a glass or two with friends. Tasting is when we are purposely wanting to experience and appreciate the complexities of whiskey. The following is intended to be a helpful guide for tasting and appreciating bourbon.
Over time, a tradition began to emerge around noticing the color of the whiskey/bourbon. And while this
may seem like a frivolous or arbitrary task, there are a few things we can learn from such a practice. One, we
can get an idea of the age of the bourbon. The darker the color, the older it likely is. But more importantly,
we believe it’s okay to simply appreciate the color – as aged whiskey has the ability to produce a color that is
like no other. Without adding anything to the bourbon, hold it up to a light and describe what you see.
Next, raise the glass to your nose and inhale. Surprisingly, you will likely get more flavor from “nosing”
the bourbon than tasting the bourbon. Describe what you smell. What memory does it conjure up? The
important thing to remember is that there is no wrong answer! Do you smell vanilla? Banana? Honey?
Oak? Leather? This begins to prepare the palate for the tasting.
Lastly, take a sip and swish it around your entire mouth before swallowing. If this is your first drink of
the day, disregard the first taste as your mouth is merely being acclimated to the alcohol. Upon the second
tasting, try to notice the very first thing you experience (known as the “front”). Next, recognize what’s
going on in the middle or “body” of the bourbon. This will likely be the predominant texture and flavor of
the bourbon. Lastly, what do you experience after you swallow (known as “the finish”)? Sometimes this is
smooth. And sometimes this has a longer burn of sorts that stays with you – often described as a long
and/or warm finish, or as they say down South…a Kentucky hug.