Before you get started with your first Bourbon tasting, you will need to patron your local liquor store. Your first walk down the Bourbon aisles can be overwhelming – it’s ok to ask for assistance.

Hostess Hint: When building a Bourbon flight, you may want to consider choosing brands from different distinguishable categories. Utilizing the category model creates opportunities to educate your guests and ensures flavor variety. Provided below are tasting categories. Ask a store clerk to help you find brands fitting these descriptions.

Tasting Categories: Low proof Bourbon (80-85 proof), wheated Bourbon, rye whiskey, small batch, single barrel or barrel strength.

How to taste Kentucky Bourbon

Whether you are evaluating a new product for the first time or hosting a tasting with friends, there are a few techniques that will help you fully appreciate all the complexities of Kentucky Bourbon. The trick is to employ all your senses.

Begin with SIGHT. Pour your Bourbon selection into a glass. A Tulip Snifter may be the preferred glass for tastings, however a rocks glass will work just fine. The shade of amber color reveals the proof of the product and may even hint at the age (or number of years the whiskey lived in the barrel). Darker shades indicate higher proof and low proof Bourbons have a lighter color.

Hostess Hint: Reading the label of the product will also provide you with a great deal of information. Having trouble with label lingo? Check out our Bourbon glossary.

Hostess Hint: If you plan to sample more than one Bourbon, start with the lower proof product first.

Give it a SMELL. It’s important to smell your Bourbon with your mouth open. Pause to appreciate the aroma and note the scents you are able to decipher.

Tasting at Maker's MarkTime to TASTE. Everyone has a different method for tasting. Fred Noe recommends “chewing” before swallowing (or swishing the product around in your mouth). Each section of the tongue picks up on different flavors. By swishing the product around you receive a more complete taste.

Hostess Hint: Your introductory taste should be neat. Have a pitcher of pure limestone water and an ice bucket ready to serve. Adding a little water or dropping an ice cube into your Bourbon changes the flavor dynamic.

Try it in a COCKTAIL. Classic cocktails such as the Manhattan and the Old Fashioned have been enjoyed for over 100 years. Many new age mixologists build cocktails by selecting ingredients that bring out the complex flavors of a Bourbon and work to avoid ingredients that may mask the original flavor. Some consumers prefer to drink their Bourbon with ginger ale.

The bottom line is you can mix almost anything with Bourbon as long as you never mix drinking and driving.

Hostess Hint: There are a few best practices you can employee to encourage responsible consumption among your guests. For example, research local cab companies before your event and have the phone numbers handy. Select some hearty meal options or appetizers to serve with your Bourbon. Also, you may consider hiring a bartender that has been STAR trained to serve your guests.