Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Bourbon Tasting

Bourbon is a type of whiskey that is mainly made in Kentucky but does not have to be.  Many people think that bourbon is only a “Kentucky thing” or specifically a “bourbon county thing” which is not true at all.  To be called Bourbon it has to be at least 51% corn and have aged in charred oak barrels at least two years.    Bourbon is only one type of whiskey.  Some other types of whiskeys are Irish, Scotch, blended whiskies, and even Japanese whiskies.


Many people in the past have stereotypically placed bourbon as a male drink because of its strong flavor but that is not so anymore.  Many women and men are learning the history of this true American spirit and how to taste it.  There are four steps in bourbon tasting which resemble a lot of the steps in wine tasting but are totally different.

The first step in tasting bourbon is to notice its color.  The color is from the aging process in the charred oak barrels and the darker it is the longer it was in the barrel. Increased age also gives the bourbon stronger and more complex flavors.  The lighter the color the less amount of time it spent in the barrel.
The second step is to smell the bourbon.  A good glass for smelling bourbon would be a snifter or a wide tumbler.  Swirl the bourbon around in the glass to release all the hidden aromas.  Smelling bourbon involves sticking your nose and mouth over the top of the glass if not in the glass and taking a breath in with your mouth.  This may be hard for many wine drinkers but the best way to smell bourbon is thru the mouth.  You do not have to open your mouth very wide but just enough to breath in some of the greatest smells you have ever smelled.

Smelling bourbon thru your nose will only give you the smell of alcohol and you will not be able to smell some of the rich scents of caramel, vanilla, and others.

The next step is to take a sip of the bourbon.  Move the bourbon around your mouth and let all your taste buds get a sense of what flavors that particular bourbon has.  See if you notice any fruit, vanilla, caramel, pepper, or other flavors.

Lastly, you want to see how long and where on your tongue the bourbon lingers.  Bourbon is a drink that is meant to be sipped and enjoyed for all its complex flavors.  If you feel the a bourbon is too strong for you or you want to change the flavor add water preferably distilled and start the steps all over again and see what flavors you get.

All the master distillers say adding water is not a bad thing.  They say get the bourbon to the taste you prefer and enjoy, which includes adding ice.

Some popular ways of drinking bourbon are on the rocks, mixed with ginger ale, or mixed with cola.  Give bourbon a chance and you might just get hooked!