What You Need to Know About Bourbon Tasting

Do you love the taste of bourbon? Do you want to learn how to attend and what to do at a bourbon tasting?

Did you know that in 2019, bourbon sales increased by 12.9%? That increase brought the total bourbon sales to $1.78 Billion. 

With a rise in popularity, bourbon is becoming the latest trend. Why not learn how to respect its flavoring. 

If you want to try a new spirit, whiskey might be for you. Read below to learn what you need to know about bourbon tasting.

Bourbon Tasting

How many people out there can honestly say they would know what to do at a tasting session? In the modern world, most people would go to a spirits tasting session to get drunk. 

The simple fact that you lovely readers have decided to read this article shows me you are different. You want to know how to respect bourbon the way it deserves to be.

You are not the WooWoo chuggers. You are the Boulevardier connoisseur. 

When you attend a tasting, you will receive a glass with a small amount of the chosen bourbon. No ice, No mixer. Adding these things will dull the taste and stop you from receiving the authentic flavor.

Don’t Drink It Just Yet

People go to bourbon and whiskey tasting to try different bourbons and whiskeys. But, it is far more than that. 

To find different flavorings that each bourbon holds, you should use all your senses. Considering these aspects will gain a better understanding of what you are drinking.


Hold the glass at an angle to look at each different bourbon. Hold it to the light or a piece of white paper to see it better. 

Is the bourbon cloudy, or is it clear to see-through? What color is the whiskey? Would you say it’s more of a light amber color, or is it a lot darker than that? 

When manufacturers make bourbon, they age it in casks. This process can add different aspects to the whiskey. 

The barrels may have come from a different spirit manufacturer. Through using these barrels, bourbon takes colors and flavoring from the barrel’s wood. 

What you see can also be on the outcome of the Proofing and Filtration process. Ask what methods this bourbon used, and you may learn more than you think.


Now you should smell your bourbon. Place your nose above the mouth of the glass, don’t shove it inside. Keeping your lips separated will enhance your smell. 

What can you smell? Does the aroma remind you of cereal? That’s the grain that makes whiskey. 

Does it smell sweet? You could find such smells as honey or vanilla in certain whiskeys. 

Does it smell woody or earthy? This smell may be from the aging process. The aroma may come from the barrels along with the coloring.

Close your eyes and see what other smells you can target. By removing one of your senses, you others may heighten. Don’t worry. People at the high-end whiskey tastings will do this too.

Now It Is Time to Taste Your Bourbon

Please do not go through all your senses to finally reach taste and ruin it by gulping the whole thing down. Take a decent-sized sip, but don’t swallow.

Swirl the bourbon around your mouth so it hits all the taste buds on your tongue. From the tip to the back, your tongue’s tastebuds split the flavors. 

The tip of your tongue has the tastebuds that pick up all your sweet flavors. Behind the sweet, to each side of the tongue, is where you receive your salty flavors.

Once the bourbon moves past the salty tastebuds, you will get your sour flavors. And finally, at the back of your mouth, you will find your bitter tastebuds. 


What are your tastebuds telling you? Think back to the aroma qualities you picked out. Does the taste match the smell? 

Can you taste any of those sweet flavors, like vanilla or even caramel? Are you sensing hints of an earthy tone such as Oak or Nuts? 

Try closing your eyes again. Does this make any other flavors stand out, such as a spicy quality? 

Now You Can Swallow

It has come time for the big finish. But don’t just swallow. Please take note of the sensation you receive from it. 

Does the taste linger in your mouth? If so, how long for? The longer they linger, the longer the finish of the bourbon.

Have any other flavors popped up? Did you receive that lovely, chesty warmth that some whiskeys are known to do?

Did you notice any textures as you swallowed the bourbon? How smooth did you find it?

Time for Round Two

Has it become clear why you left some bourbon in the glass? It’s time to do the whole process again. 

Try adding a couple of drops of water to dilute the whiskey slightly. Adding Diluted water to whiskey will help release more aromas and flavors.

You may have picked up some flavors from the taste that you didn’t pick up last time you smelled the bourbon. Can you smell them this time?

Can you taste more flavors with the water? What new ones can you sense?

Take Note of Your Own Senses

If you are in a group, make sure to focus on your own senses. Your tastebuds may pick up flavors that other people may not. 

Have a flavor guide in front of your to help pinpoint that flavor you are tasting. Please don’t have a previously made review of the bourbon in front of you. Doing so will stop you from finding any flavors that aren’t listed.

Respect Your Bourbon

Now you have an idea of what to expect when you visit a bourbon tasting. Go to learn, not to get drunk.

What color does the whiskey have? What smells can you pick out? Can you find any flavors that others can’t?

Don’t forget to come back and leave a comment on how your tasting went. Also, head over to our other blogs for more exciting food and drinks articles.


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