• Seth

How to Host Your Own Bourbon Tasting

Hosting a bourbon tasting is something many people would like to do, but they aren’t quite sure where to start. My friends at the SIP Awards have created this handy guide to walk you through setting up your first tasting, and I’ve added a few notes that make it more specific to whiskey. Read on and you’ll be ready to host a tasting tonight!

The spirit tasting experience is incredibly important and here at the SIP Awards, we understand that hosting your own spirit tasting requires the right guidance. The details matter, so here’s our “How to” guide on hosting your own tasting with some delicious spirits.

Choose Your Whiskey

You have some serious (but fun) choices ahead of you, and you’ll want your tasting to have a focus. For example, will it be all bourbon, all rye, or maybe all malt whiskey? Will they be from only local, national, or international distilleries? These preferences are ultimately up to you so have fun with it — maybe our judges’ preferences can give you an idea. We also prefer the blind-tasting route; it removes your own potential biases and leaves enough mystery to add just the right amount of excitement. The only real guideline here is if that it’s best to keep every option within the same general type. You don’t want to jump from a barrel proof rye to a 90-proof, rum finished bourbon as it will drastically alter your opinion of one, if not both. Pick a general type and a general proof range, typically within 10-15 proof points of each other for the best results.

The Glassware and Pours

The glass of choice can make or break your tasting. Since 2014, the SIP Awards has exclusively used the NEAT Glass during competitions, and its design was recently the focus of a scientific paper. No matter what you choose, it’s imperative that all glasses are identical; presenting whiskey in different glasses will surely change the experience for each taster. Each pour should be around one-half ounce to one ounce; measuring tools should be used for accuracy.

It’s easy to underestimate the number of glasses necessary for a tasting. For example, a group of four people tasting six unique samples would require 24 glasses. A more economical approach would be to serve the samples in two separate batches, which would only require 12 glasses with a proper washing of glassware in between.

How to Disguise for Blind Tasting

You won’t want your guests to see any bottles while in the act of pouring if you want to keep the element of surprise intact. You could place each bottle in a paper or plastic bag, but this approach isn’t aesthetically pleasing. We recommend pouring each whiskey into a separate carafe, decanter or unmarked bottle. It's important to label each in a manner that will help you keep track of each whiskey. A simple label like “Bottle A” or “Bottle 1” will suffice.

Drinking Each Spirit

We have all the tips and tricks you need in one of our previous blog posts titled How to Drink a Spirit and Why it’s Important. Our step-by-step guide will help you expertly conduct your spirits tasting event. Have a look!

The Menu

If you plan on serving food, after the tasting will be most ideal. This will ensure everyone’s palates stay optimal, however, it is recommended to provide dry, unflavored crackers and/or water to clear the palate in between tastings. Also, allow a short break between each palate cleansing before tasting the next spirit.

Taking Notes

After a few rounds, your memory could start to blur. Taking notes will become necessary in order to accurately recall how you felt about each whiskey, especially if it’s a blind tasting. The main point is to enjoy yourselves, but keeping track of which glass is your new favorite whiskey matters just as much.

Do Some Research

Once you know which whiskeys will be blind tasted, it’s important as a host to do some background research on each brand. Your guests will have questions, especially if they took good notes. Knowing the answer and other fun facts will quickly score you extra points with your friends or family.

Wrapping Up

At the end of any tasting, it’s fun to tally scores and rankings of bottles to come up with an overall group ranking of the whiskeys. You’ll frequently be surprised at the order the whiskeys finish, and that usually leads to great discussions while sipping on even more of the whiskey you’ve just ranked.

This article originally appeared at https://sipawards.com/sipology/how-to-host-your-own-spirit-tasting/