How to Properly Taste and Enjoy Bourbon

How to Properly Taste and Enjoy Bourbon

Over time, bourbon has created a sort of culture around it, dedicated to finding the best way to experience it. And as most people in the community will tell you, there is a difference between drinking and tasting bourbon. You will also hear that tasting bourbon is by far the most enjoyable way to have a drink. However, tasting bourbon is a surprisingly involved process, and if you’re new to the bourbon community, it’s easy to miss out on a step or two. While this is understandable, it can take away a lot from your experience. As such, knowing how to approach this before you try can make the experience that much better. So, in order to help you enjoy your drink to the fullest, we put together a guide on how to properly taste and enjoy bourbon.

Make sure you have a Glencairn glass

One of the most important things is having the right glass handy if you want to taste and enjoy bourbon properly. Glencairn glasses are specifically designed to direct aromas to your nose while sipping. This is important as bourbon’s aroma is a big part of the tasting experience. Additionally, the Glencairn glass design allows you to properly observe the color thanks to the base of the glass and makes it easy to swirl the drink. There are a few other types of glasses popular with bourbon fans (like shot glasses), but Glencairn glasses offer the absolute best experience. Especially if you’re planning a bourbon-tasting party, make sure you have enough of these glasses on hand. After all, as the host, it’s up to you to ensure every guest can have the best possible experience. And if everyone is relatively new to bourbon tasting, remember to share these tips.

close-up of a shot glass
While shot glasses are usually fine, Glencairn glasses offer the best tasting experience.

Observe the color and nose the glass

Before you start sipping, take a moment to look at the color of your bourbon. Generally speaking, the lighter the color, the lighter the taste. Also, the longer a bourbon was aged, the darker it would be, typically. You can tell a lot about your drink based on its appearance alone. Then, tilt the glass and only barely place your nose in it. Breathe through your nose while keeping your lips parted slightly. This will allow you to take in the aroma of the bourbon so you know what to expect. We recommend doing this a few times before taking a sip so you have a chance to pick up on the subtler notes. And if you’re on the fence about trying bourbon, remember there are health benefits to bourbon. Of course, as long as you drink in moderation, bourbon can actually be beneficial for your health overall.

Sip and hold

Finally, it’s time to fully taste and enjoy bourbon by sipping it. However, just taking a sip and swallowing isn’t enough. When you take a sip, hold it in your mouth for a few seconds and take the time to take in the flavor of your drink. The beauty of bourbon lies in the variety of tastes and notes it offers, so take it slowly. With most bourbons, you can expect notes of oak, vanilla, rye spice, or caramel. However, you can find many other notes in bourbons, so take your time and experiment. Many bourbon fans come to Kentucky exactly for these reasons. And if you find yourself wanting to move to Kentucky as well, for example, from Tennessee, experts from Spyder Moving Tennessee note that you should properly research your movers. After all, long-distance moves should be taken as seriously as possible.

close-up of a bourbon bottle and shot glass
Taking the time to properly taste your bourbon is vital to the experience.

Take enough time to enjoy the finish before the next sip

Once you take a sip and swallow it, you’ll feel the lingering taste of the bourbon. This is called the finish, and it adds an extra layer of depth to enjoying bourbon. This part tends to offer completely different taste notes compared to the sip. Although, the taste of oak is almost guaranteed to be present during the finish as well. Other than oak, you can typically expect notes of spice, pepper, and leather, the last of which could be quite the surprise. Depending on the bourbon, the finish can be very short to long. And if you want to change the experience from start to finish, try adding a few drops of water to the glass. This can often bring out completely different tastes in the bourbon and makes bourbon from the same bottle an entirely different experience, from sipping to savoring the finish.

Try the Kentucky Chew

The Kentucky Chew is a specific way to taste your bourbon which helps bring out even more flavor. Firstly, swirl the glass and observe the bottom of it. Some bourbons will have “legs” that form around the bottom of the glass. Then, nose the glass as before, then take a sip. Aim the sip at the middle of your palate, swirl the drink in your mouth, and chew on it before swallowing. Once you swallow the sip, breathe out to release the ethanol taste and smack your lips. Most bourbon fans consider this the best way to taste the drink. Remember to keep this in mind if you go on a distillery tour in Kentucky. However, the Kentucky Chew can be difficult for beginners, as it gives more time for the drink to burn your throat, so maybe don’t try it until you’re used to it.

close-up of bourbon in a glass with red rose petals
The Kentucky Chew is the best way to taste bourbon, but it can be difficult for beginners.

How to properly taste and enjoy bourbon – wrap up

Bourbon is an amazing drink, and it’s easy to see why when you taste it for the first time. This has given rise to an entire community dedicated to bourbon tasting. And if you’re planning to give bourbon a try at some point, it’s important to know the right way to taste it. This can add so much to your experience, and you shouldn’t ignore it. We hope this guide on how to properly taste and enjoy bourbon helps you fully enjoy your drink.

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