Going on a bourbon tour is a lovely way to learn not only about this beverage, but about its history and about the people and companies that make it. A big part of your tour, however, will be tasting various bourbons. In order to get the most out of the experience, it is important that you not only know how to taste bourbon properly, but how to best do so in a tour context. Here are a few tips to help guide you.
1. Opt for a guided tasting, when possible.
Many distilleries that you visit will give you the choice between a guided tasting, and an independent tasting. If you know how to taste bourbon or have a lot of experience, you can of course go with the independent tasting. However, as a beginner — and even as someone with moderate experience — it is best to opt for the guided tasting when possible. Each guide will have some new tips and tricks to teach you about tasting bourbon. Plus, they will often point out different notes in the bourbon, which will help refine your palate and enhance the experience.
2. Swirl and inhale, first.
When presented with a bourbon sample, do not just pick it up and sip it. First, swirl it in your glass, pause for a second, and take a whiff. Pausing helps keep the scent from coming on too harshly, and it also ensures you smell the true characteristics of the bourbon, and not just the alcohol. Enjoying the scent of the bourbon before sipping it will enhance the experience and make your taste buds more sensitive.
3. Take tiny sips.
Maybe this goes without saying, but tasting whiskey is not about doing shots. You should sip very slowly and take your time. Let each little sip roll completely over your tongue before swallowing it.
4. Feel free to add water.
When you sit down to a bourbon tasting, there will often be a carafe of water on the tasting table. This is there for you to add to your bourbon, if desired. Always taste the bourbon without water first, and it if seems a little strong for your palate, you can add a few drops of water. The water will soften the bourbon and allow you to notice certain nuances that you may have missed otherwise.
Bourbon tours can be a great way to experience this unique alcohol. Book yours soon, and keep the tips above in mind as it comes time for the tasting.