Guide to Hosting a Fun Bourbon Tasting Party

Guide to Hosting a Fun Bourbon Tasting Party

If you’re a bourbon fan and have been drinking it for a while, you’ve likely already developed a taste for specific brands. Getting stuck in a place where you always reach for the same few labels on the store shelves is normal. However, this can result in you missing out on the full flavor spectrum of America’s Native Spirit. There are so many things that can affect how a batch of bourbon tastes. From the way the barrel was charred and how long it was aged to the type of grain and yeast used when making it. While everyone knows that one of the best ways to enjoy and appreciate bourbon is to visit and tour a Kentucky distillery, sometimes you just can’t fit that into your schedule. But another enjoyable way of doing just that is hosting a fun bourbon tasting party!

A bourbon tasting is also a great way to socialize and spend a fun evening with your friends. But you have to do it right. This guide will give you all the necessary tips and information to ensure that your bourbon tasting party will be one to remember.

What types of bourbon should you use for a tasting party?

When hosting a bourbon tasting, your main goal should be to provide variety in the flavor profiles. That way, the tasting itself will be more exciting, and the scoring will make more sense. There are several ways to ensure variety in your bourbon tasting party. Let’s list a few of the most popular methods, and keep in mind that you can always use a mix of a few of these options.

ourbon barrels at a distillery
Even the way barrels are charred creates variety in bourbon.

Bourbon choosing methods

1. The guest’s favorites – One fun idea would be to encourage guests to bring their favorites and conceal the labels beforehand. This way, you’ll also be able to compare personal tastes. 

2. Different mash bills – As we’ve already mentioned, changes in the grain composition when the bourbon is being made create considerable differences in the flavor. Buying a bunch of bottles with different mash bills will ensure that your tasting party will have a wide range of flavor profiles. 

3. Different ages – The flavor of a non-age-stated bourbon will be very different from one that was aged in a barrel for a long time. 

4. Producers – Another way to introduce variety is to include selections from several different producers. 

5. Price range variety – This is possibly the most popular method of making the scoring aspect of tasting party fun. It’s always interesting when you reveal that a budget-friendly bourbon scored like a top-shelf spirit and vice versa. 

6. Region variety – Finally, a great idea would be to bring bourbon from different places. Although 95% of the world’s bourbon is made in Kentucky, you can still find labels from other places in the US. Additionally, if you’re new to a neighborhood, Triple 7 Movers Las Vegas experts recommend hosting a fun bourbon tasting party to socialize after moving. If this is your situation, including a local bourbon from where you previously lived is a great idea.

Pro tip

One thing you should keep in mind when choosing bottles is that you should stick to a similar proof range with them. Additionally, you should put the bourbons in order from lowest to highest proof since that’ll help avoid palate fatigue.

Food is also very important

The snacks you choose to provide during a bourbon tasting party are more important than you might think. Bourbon food pairing is an art of its own. But, in short, you can separate the snacks into two main categories – palate cleansers and flavor enhancers. Things like unsalted crackers, chips, and pretzels can all be great palate cleansers. On the other hand, you can use certain nuts, dried fruits, and chocolate to help bring out the sweetness of the bourbon. Of course, aside from all of these benefits, snacks also help you and your guests drink responsibly and stay relatively sober.

Nuts and dates in snack bowls
You have to pick the right snacks if you plan on hosting a fun bourbon tasting party.

Keep the labels a secret during your bourbon tasting

Concealing the bourbon labels at your party is crucial to making it as fun as possible. Firstly, this will help remove any brand loyalty bias and help everyone involved open their minds (and tongues) to new options. Secondly, having the labels of the bourbons remain a mystery until the very end allows you to do a fun reveal at the end. This’ll make everything much more fun and exciting when people get the chance to compare their blind scores to the revealed labels. 

The best way to do this is to pour every bourbon you’ll be tasting into an unlabelled container (ex., decanters), then label each of them with a number you previously assigned. Keep these a secret from the guests and have everyone taste each flavor blindly.

Proper tasting technique is important for hosting a fun bourbon tasting

Like most complex spirits, tasting bourbon properly involves much more than just drinking it. It should be an experience for all of your senses. There are three main steps to tasting bourbon. We recommend printing out this list on small pieces of paper and handing them to all of your guests so that everyone can enjoy the whole experience of tasting bourbon. 

Step 1 – Pour around half an ounce of bourbon into everyone’s glass. Everyone can then swirl the bourbon around for a bit and examine the color. Since it’s illegal for distilleries to add color to their bourbon, the color you see reflects the barrel it was aged in. The color of the bourbon tells the story of its creation.

Step 2 – Smell the bourbon from your glass with your mouth slightly open. Opening your mouth will allow you to appreciate all the layers of the spirit’s aroma. 

Step 3 – Take a sip and start performing a chewing motion. This method of fully coating the mouth with the drink is called the “Kentucky chew” and it was created specifically for tasting bourbon. After a few seconds of chewing, swallow and immediately open your mouth. This helps you combine the taste and aroma experience into one.

A scoring system and reveal makes things more fun

Introducing a scoring system makes this whole activity more interactive. And combined with concealing and subsequently revealing the labels after scoring them blindly, the whole night will have an element of excitement. Remember to provide everyone with papers and pens so that they can write down their scores. The best way to structure your scoring system is by separating five main categories color, aroma, flavor, complexity (both aroma and taste), and finish.

A stack of paper cards
Provide everyone with pieces of paper and pens so that they can write down their scoring for each bourbon.

To conclude

Bourbon is a beautiful drink that deserves to be experienced to the full extent. And the best method of honoring America’s Native Spirit is hosting a fun bourbon tasting party. By utilizing the tips and ideas in this guide, you can be sure that your tasting will be fun. Of course, the final ingredient is your personality. Let it shine and be a charismatic host. You can share some interesting facts about bourbon or fun personal stories about bourbon. Engage everyone and enjoy a fun evening with America’s favorite drink.

Let us help you make your next family or friend gathering special, educational, and memorable.

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